Monday, March 15, 2010

making it personal

The Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
Genre: fiction
Review: This is a sweet book, though it's not without some drama and darkness. At just the right time in her life, Joy Harkness gets an unexpected job offer that takes her from a prestigious but unsatisfying job at Columbia University to an equally prestigious job in the small college town of Amherst, Massachusetts. Leaving behind a life devoid of personal connections, she suddenly finds herself thrust into the social framework of her new home.

Joy’s lack of personal past seems at many points in the narrative to be little more than a plot device to set up the “second chance” that she suddenly has in her new home. After all, if we didn’t know that she was a social outsider at Columbia, it wouldn’t make sense for her to behave in such a socially awkward way at Amherst. Except it still doesn’t make sense, because although she initially rebuffs many social efforts from her colleagues, she seems to have no problem forming a relationship with the handyman who fixes up her new house. That inconsistency undercuts much of the tension that might otherwise be present as she is forced to reconsider her life in social terms.

Fortunately, for both Joy and the reader, her new colleagues are fairly insistent that she not hold herself apart any longer, and the story that unfolds is quite touching. If many of the secondary characters seem flat, it is because their purpose is really to shine a spotlight on Joy and the changes she is experiencing. Meier generally succeeds in giving us a readable and enjoyable story and avoids the saccharine by achieving an ending that is not happy in the usual sense, but is certainly satisfying and hopeful.

FTC disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.

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