Year of the Bookwormz: 2011

52 weeks. 2 friends. 1 challenge.

Book S: LibraryLove March 8, 2011

Skipping A Beat by Sarah Pekkanen

Book description~ Julia and Michael meet in high school in their small, poverty-stricken West Virginia hometown. Both products of difficult childhoods — Julia’s father is a compulsive gambler and Michael’s mother abandoned his family when he was a young boy – they find a sense of safety and mutual understanding in each other. Shortly after graduation they flee West Virginia to start afresh. Now thirty-somethings, they are living a rarified life in their multi-million-dollar,Washington D.C. home. From the outside it all looks perfect – Julia has become a highly sought-after party planner, while Michael has launched a wildly successful flavored water company that he sold for $70 million.
But one day Michael stands up at the head of the table in his company’s boardroom — then silently crashes to the floor. More than four minutes later, a portable defibrillator manages to jump-start his heart. Yet what happened to Michael during those lost minutes forever changes him. Money is meaningless to him now – and he wants to give it all away to charity. A prenuptial agreement that Julia insisted upon back when Michael’s company was still struggling means she has no claim to his fortune, and now she must decide: should she walk away from the man she once adored, but who truthfully became a stranger to her long before his near-death experience – or should she give in to her husband’s pleas for a second chance and a promise of a poorer but happier life? And ensure kleenex are nearby for the ending. Ok, glad you know where this review is going.

I would’ve blogged sooner but was bogged down by a few subpar books…and instead of blogging about those frogs, at long last, I made time to read Sarah’s newest book, Skipping A Beat, finally a book blog-worthy of counting toward this challenge!

Not only is Sarah my friend, my constant source of hilarity, and an awesome listening ear, but she’s an amazing author. I thought her first book, released last year, The Opposite of Me was so wonderful. Well, Skipping A Beat just trumped it as even MORE wonderful. SAB exceeded my expectations and took me on an awesome journey through Julia & Michael’s turbulent lives when the course of their lives were forever changed after an ‘accident’. I also love that both Michael, Julia, and my other favorite character from SAB, Isabelle, are all flawed characters. Who wants to read a book about perfect people? It’s not realistic and it’s unrelatable. Flawed characters are so much interesting to read about.

Maybe because I know Sarah, I can hear inner voice shining through the characters, crafting them into such interesting folks. Her writing ability has grown so much in just one year. You can’t help but devour this book, because you can’t predict where the story will take you next.  Sarah can truly paint a picture or set the scene for the reader and has such a unique ability to use subtle literary nuances to hook you. There were so many instances, too many to note, but here are a few of my favorite moments where I felt swept away in Julia and Michael’s world because of how nuanced Sarah’s writing is:

He gave me a gift every single hour. At ten o’clock it was a song- his voice cracked twice, and he tried, without much success to rhyme Julia with beauteous and I laughed until I cried. At noon he baked me a chocolate cake.

Just as Michael said those words, the sun broke free from a giant cloud and beamed its warmth onto me, beginning at my feet and moving up my legs, then over my stomach and my arms and neck. I looked at Michael my eyes wide. He was staring back at me, an expression I’d never seen before on his face. “That’s it,” he whispered. “Just now, when you were so cold and then the sun came out? Julia, that’s exactly how it felt after I died.”

I found an overnight bag and packed a few things- my favorite cozy socks, the picture of Michael in his DrinkUp apron holding a sample cup high in the air like he was making a toast, and a journal with a pretty cover so I could capture some memories of  my husband before they faded even the slightest bit. I rinsed out a glass and put it in the dishwasher, then opened the refrigerator and cleaned out the wilted lettuce and spoiled milk. As I wiped down the shelves with a sponge, I remembered something. I opened the freezer and saw it, tucked in the very back. I pushed aside a package of frozen spinach that I’d been pretending I was going to eat someday and pulled out the tub of Breyer’s chocolate ice cream.

I felt like this novel was like a relationship with an old friend. The book wasn’t constructed in typical chronology but jumped around like our lives and conversations often do. When we meet a friend for coffee or lunch and we get on topics so far from where we started, and we end up talking about our pasts, our struggles, our successes, and our failures. Michael and Julia’s marriage isn’t perfect, but they both genuinely love each other. I think it’s easy to get lost in your own world and stray from where you started, but things eventually get back to center, always.

I wept when I got to the end of the novel for many reasons; for Julia’s redemption, to know she and her father can start over with a clean slate, and in sorrow that Michael will never know his son. Then I thought to myself that Noah’s character really gave both Julia and Michael a glimpse into what could be.

Sarah, I’m so honored to know you and be in your cheering section. Watching your success take you higher is an awesome feeling.

Please tell me you scheduled that much needed spa day? 🙂

Here are a few pics of Sarah and I that always make me smile when I think about them:

5/5 stars

3 down, 23 to go!

Next up: The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls