Saturday, December 18, 2010

Becoming Scarlett by Ciara Geraghty

Most people (here in Ireland) feel that Marian Keyes is the Queen of Chick Lit. To them it is an undisputable fact. But I have to disagree and put in my own two cents and say that Ciara Geraghty is the Queen of Chick Lit. Her first book, Saving Grace, was so damn good that I wanted to give up my own writing (what was the point?) and take to my bed. For the rest of my life. Equal parts poignant and equal parts outrageously funny (my stomach hurt from laughing so much).
Becoming Scarlett is in the same vein- both poignant and funny. The story centers around Scarlett O'Hara, a wedding planner and an all around planner for everything else in her life: she even coordinates her wardrobe by color and season. Anal retentive is the word that comes to mind. But things are soon thrown into turmoil when her equally anal retentive boyfriend, John, ups and leaves her to join an archaelogical dig in South America. Hurt and angry, and very drunk one night, she has a one night stand with a barman named Red Butler. Soon she discovers she's pregnant and she's unsure of who the father is.
To further complicate things, Scarlett soon discovers that Red Butler is the fiancee of a one Sofia Marzoni, who is looking for a big, fairytale 'pink' wedding, of which Scarlett is trying to plan. Head meet desk.
We happily follow along for the pregnancy as Scarlett tries to wrestle with coming to some decision about her life and who is best suited to be the baby's father. The stable, ultra dependable John or the infectious, happy Red, who is as opposite of Scarlett as day is to night. He doesn't even own a watch, or apparently a brush, but he is a breath of fresh air.
Add to the mix the outrageous cast of characters- Scarlett's parents, Declan and Maureen, are both actors and outrageous and pure camp in their own right. There's Filly and Elliot, co workers who also are fun to be around. I want an assistant like Filly.
But where Geraghty shines is her ability to weave expertly both humor and gravity. In Saving Grace, it was about grief. Here, Scarlett's baby comes early, at 28 weeks (and not according to plan) and being familiar with this personally, having had a son at 24 weeks, I was anxious as to how it would be handled. But Geraghty nailed it. After she delivers and the baby is immediately taken away from her, she writes: "Hands reach for her but they are not my hands. I feel like I am standing with my face pressed up against the window of my life. There is nothing I can do but watch." That is exactly how it feels. And the waiting. She mentions how all she can do is wait. And that is what you do when your baby is born early and spends a lot of time in the neonatal unit. You sit and wait. And try not to go crazy with worry.
It's lovely to watch Scarlett evolve and 'become' Scarlett.
Then Geraghty comes in with the sucker punch which leaves you dazzled. You're expecting the book to end one way- the inevitable way and in some ways it does, but she goes off in another direction, veering away from plan and gives you the best ending.
All hail, Queen of Chick Lit, Ciara Geraghty.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Bloom by Elizabeth Scott

Ahem- sorry for not being around, I stepped away from my desk for a minute. 'Nuff said.

Bloom by Elizabeth Scott is a young adult, coming of age novel centering on seventeen year old Lauren Smith. Despite being abandoned by her mom as a young girl and raised by an absentee father, she has managed to maintain good grades, make great friends and has nailed the 'perfect' boyfriend, Dave, thus making her the envy of every girl in her high school.

But then Lauren runs into Evan, a dark, quite kid, who is quite literally from her 'past.' Evan had briefly lived with Lauren when they were younger and when his mom had been romantically involved with Lauren's dad.

Inexplicably, she finds herself drawn to Evan and begins to question everything in her life from her choices of friends to her relationship with Dave and even her own future. Her boyfriend is perfect and she feels she should be happy but there's something lacking. He's kind and courteous and includes Lauren on all his family outings which mainly deal with going to church and sitting in the woods with his parents and talking about his feelings.

Then there's Evan- working under the table and at night and living with his single mother in an apartment.

I loved the characters, and Lauren is so well written with her confusion, awkwardness and that feeling of not fitting in. She has some marvelous, wry insights.

I loved this little book so much that I devoured it. Scott explores the very fine line of doing what's expected of us and choosing to do what makes us happy.

A great read.