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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough: A Novel by Ruth Pennebaker

From back of book:

Joanie's ex-husband is having a baby with his new girlfriend.  Joanie won't be having any more babies, since she's decided never to have sex again.

But Joanie still has her teenage daughter to care for.  And, thanks to the recession, her elderly mother, too.  Joanie's back in the workforce - at an Austin ad agency - trying to support them all.  Her daughter texts unceasingly and her mother brags about "Goggling", but Joanie is still trying to figure out her office computer.  And how to fend off her coworker Bruce, since she's decided never to have sex again.

Joanie, Caroline, and Ivy are stuck under the same roof, and it isn't easy.  But sometimes they surprise each other - and themselves.  And sometimes it's possible to undo the mistakes of the past, like deciding never to have sex again...

My thoughts:

This book is hilarious.  I absolutely enjoyed reading Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough - with a title like that, who wouldn't?  From the beginning you are captivated by the three depressing lives of Joanie, Caroline and Ivy.  All three women hail from different generations and find themselves forced to live under the same roof.  Joanie is divorced; about to turn fifty; struggling at her ad exec job;dealing with a teen- aged daughter who ignores her; and a mother who is constantly calling her Roxanne and criticizing her.  Oh and her ex-husband Richard is marrying a super young woman who is also pregnant with his baby.  Caroline is Joanie's teen-aged daughter; who hates being flat-chested; lusts after a classmate who only talks to her when he needs help with an assignment;  has one friend named Sondra; pretends to text whenever her mother is around because she doesn't want to talk with her; and believes her grandma Ivy to be racist.  Ivy is living with her daughter Joanie (who she still calls Roxanne - which is Joanie's real first name); shoplifts scarves from boutiques in town; befriends a waitress named Lupe (her first Mexican friend, who happens to be illegal, which is another first for Ivy);  favors a son who never calls or visits; wishes her granddaughter would embrace religion; and is depressed at having lost her home and monies due to the recession, which forced her to move in with her daughter (which means she feels more like an intruder than a resident in the house).  Combined together, all these emotions collide with each other on a daily basis and create quite a handful of arguments amongst these three women.  Basically, this is very entertaining reading. 

Pennebaker does a great job at developing each woman's character and sharing with us the fears and hopes that they discover as the story unfolds.  You get to know these women and find yourself wanting them to embrace their inner strength and move forward with their lives.  Its heartbreaking to read about how each woman appears so unaware of the other's pains, because of their refusal to trust and communicate.  You just want to shake them awake and tell them to snap out of it.  You want to be there for them when they need someone and you want to cheer them on when the fog begins to clear and they slowly begin to look around and notice that life is really not all that bad.  This a book that keeps you wanting more.  Its definitely a book I would recommend to anyone looking for a fascinating look at the realities of divorced life, high school humiliations and the not-so-golden years. 
Thanks to Trish from TLC for allowing me to participate in the TLC tour of Ruth Pennebaker's, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough: A Novel

13 comments:

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I love the fact that a book with a title about a woman on the verge of a nervous breakthrough is hilarious - and I'm up for any book that leaves you wanting more. I love it when a book makes me feel like it's a great book, with well written characters, but it's not often when you close the pages and you just want more. Great review!

Steph said...

Sounds like a great read! I really enjoy books that focus on more than a single character, and the idea of having three generations under one roof certainly lends itself to amusing chaos.

Nadia said...

Coffee and a Book Chick - Thanks! It was such a fun read and like you I always love it when a book leaves you wanting to find out more about the characters - like what will happen next for them. Its definitely the mark of a good story.

Steph - It was a great read! Me too! I like it when a book focuses on more than one character because I think it adds more depth to the story and definitely make for a more varied read.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

There is a lot going on in this book, what with three such strong personalities. I'm glad to see that the humor in it worked for you and that you enjoyed the story as a whole. Thanks for being a part of this tour.

ruth pennebaker said...

thank you so much for taking the time to read and review my novel. -- Ruth Pennebaker

Nadia said...

Heather J. - I loved participating in this tour. Thanks for having me. And yes, I loved the humor in this book - it was my kind of funny.

ruth pennebaker - Loved your book! Thanks for reading my review of it. I'd definitely read more of your work. Cheers!

Brenda said...

This looks very funny!

Rayna said...

This sounds like a great book - I'll have to check it out. I wonder if the novel was influenced by Almodovar's "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" (more than just the title, I mean).

Nadia said...

Brenda, it is funny to read. I think you'll enjoy it.

Rayna, check it out if you get the chance. And I didn't think of that? Hmmm. Will have to check that out - that would be interesting.

Tom C said...

Well, its certainly a great title! Perhaps not so much a book for a male audience though!

Nadia said...

Tom, true indeed! Definitely a great title, though.

bermudaonion said...

This sounds fabulous! I love women's stories and the fact that this features three generations makes it sound even better.

Lisa said...

Wasn't there a movie once by the same name? I think I'd keep getting the plots mixed up!