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The Robbins household looks perfect from the outside: no dust, no stains, no wrinkles. Yet a glimpse into its heart reveals no laughter, no closeness, no joy. Olivia thinks that if she keeps everything tidy and serves delicious meals on time, family life is bound to get better. But when her husband, Nick, misses their anniversary, she realizes no amount of domestic success will compensate for failure in their marriage, or for her own failure to develop her identity—always busy as a mother, wife, and neighbor, she has forgotten how to be a unique and vibrant individual. Determined to make a change, Olivia joins a local book club, where she nurtures new friendships and explores new ideas. But her growing confidence falters when Nick declares his independence— and while her new friends lovingly encircle her with support, only Olivia can reach into the depths of her fledgling self to find the faith, hope, and love her troubled family needs.
- Pages: 224
- Size: 6 x 9
- Released: 02/2012
About the Author
Julie Wright started her first book when she was fifteen and was surprised to get it published. She’s written over a dozen books since then, is a Whitney Awards winner for her novel Cross My Heart, and she feels she’s finally getting the hang of this writing gig.
She enjoys speaking to writing groups, youth groups, and schools.
She loves reading, eating, writing, hiking, playing on the beach with her kids, and snuggling with her husband to watch movies. Julie’s favorite thing to do is watch her husband make dinner. She hates mayonnaise but has a healthy respect for ice cream.
Visit her at her website: www.juliewright.com.
He came home after I’d already changed into a nightgown and curled up under the blankets on my side of the bed. He didn’t turn on a light but bumbled around in the dark, undressing himself, tugging off shoes and dropping them to the floor. All the noise he made overrode any show of politeness in keeping the light off.
He whispered my name once, his voice soft like a caress in the darkness. I didn’t respond, not wanting to hear the excuse now, not with the stinging back in my eyes and my pillow already damp. For as sweet as the whisper might have been, the excuse without apology would be a slap. I couldn’t handle the slap, not when I clung so desperately to the little bit of glad the idea of a book group gave me.
When his bulk settled into the space next to me, he stretched a little, his toe touching my leg. Surely the touch was an accident. Surely he hadn’t meant to make contact with me, like he’d done at the beginning of our marriage when he’d felt he needed to touch me every moment we were together. It almost burned where his skin connected with mine, but I couldn’t move away, not without him realizing I was still awake. The few tears that had trickled out before became a steady stream of quiet mourning for the love I’d once felt in such a touch.
His foot stayed against my leg.
When I awoke, my eyes felt scratchy; my head ached from crying. Nick still slept the sleep of an oblivious, stupid, dumb, uncaring ox of a husband. I took a deep breath.
No, Livvy. That doesn’t help you. Stop casting insults at the man who can’t defend himself in his sleep. But no self-admonishment replaced my desire to fill his shoes with oatmeal. Grateful he still slept, I slid out of bed and went to the bathroom to quickly get ready. I had a lot to do, and not dealing with him would help the morning run more smoothly.
I frowned at the mirror, noting the dark roots against the blonde dye job. I’d have to go back to the hairdresser. I hated getting my hair dyed all the time. But Nick had come home one day talking about how he thought blonde hair would highlight my blue eyes.
At the time, everything in my life had swirled around Nick’s opinion. The next day I’d walked into the hairdresser a brunette and walked out a blonde.
He’d been wrong. The blue in my eyes faded with the blonde, becoming typical and uninteresting, whereas the brown hair had offset my eyes and made them more vibrant. Nick loved the change though, and I loved what Nick loved.
Today I wanted to shave my head just to teach him a lesson, except, like the dishes, I’d be the one dealing with the mess that would follow. I finished getting ready, pulling my hair back into a ponytail to keep it out of my face.
He rolled over as I tied my shoes in front of the closet. Stay asleep, I thought. Stay asleep until I leave.
It wasn’t until I was downstairs and starting breakfast that my body relaxed into the routine of the day. I put some eggs on to boil, remembering to set the timer so I didn’t let them get too hard, lest Nick turn his nose and mumble something about catching breakfast on his way to work.
Amanda followed the smell of bacon to the kitchen, her hair now in messy clumps around her shoulders and her eyes squinting in that way she did when she really hadn’t slept enough. “Morning, Mandy.” I handed her a plate so she could serve herself. The rest I would pop in the warmer oven for whenever Nick pulled himself out of bed, which hopefully wouldn’t be until I was long gone.
“Is Dad home?” she asked, accepting the plate and piling on most of the already cooked bacon. Someone once told me that having a teen boy would cost me a fortune in food, and they were right. Chad ate a ton. But no one had warned me about the teen girl. Mandy ate twice the amount of food her older brother ate.
I nodded. “Still sleeping.”
She snorted. “If I came home that late, I’d still be sleeping too. You do know you would totally ground me and not let me sleep in if I came home that late.”
“I’m not his mother,” I said.
She moved to sit on the barstool at the island while I finished cooking. “Then you should call his mother, because if he’s going to act like an immature brat, he ought to be punished like one.”
I shot a warning look over my shoulder and went back to the fry pan. “Don’t disrespect your father, Manda-Bear. You know that’s never okay with me.”
I felt her tensing behind me, wanting to say more, but she didn’t. Mandy had always clashed with her father. They’d been butting heads since she was two and wanted to have her own puppy. She’d finally gotten her way, but when that dog died, he’d refused to get another one. Not much had changed. They still clashed, and I still came between them and smoothed out the wrinkles of the impact. If I ever divorced Nick, Mandy would choose to live with me like his other kids had lived with their mother.
I blinked and exhaled sharply. Divorce? Where had that thought come from?
The phone rang, cutting into the tension of Mandy’s mood and my worry over the appearance of a word I’d never really allowed into my mind before.
“Hello, DeeAnn.” I greeted my mother-in-law. “How were the kids?”
DeeAnn once asked me to call her Mom, but I already had a mother and wasn’t looking for any replacements—and DeeAnn never felt motherly to me. She was still in love with the wife who hadn’t worked out.
The voice on the other end of the line informed me that Marie had a fever and refused to eat breakfast because she didn’t feel well, but Tyler was fine.
“I’ll come get them as soon as I finish making breakfast,” I said. “I’m so sorry Marie’s sick!”
“Oh, don’t worry about it. I know how to care for a sickly kid; she’ll be better off here with some grandma spoiling. I really don’t get to see them often enough. Get whatever you need to do done and then come by. I just wanted to let you know she wasn’t feeling well so you aren’t surprised when you pick her up.”
DeeAnn was like that, helpful, willing, pleasant. And yet there always seemed to be a barb under the pleasantries. Marie would be better there? I knew how to take care of a sick kid as well as the next person. I’d raised four of them just fine, thank you very much! Nick accused me of looking for unintended criticism, so I stopped mentioning my feelings of inadequacy around his mother to him. The fights weren’t worth it.
I considered throwing the phone against the wall after she’d hung up but remembered how the plate incident had turned out and instead placed the phone gently on the counter.
Mandy rolled her eyes at me. How was it that she could look so cute while doing something so infuriating? “You had his mother on the phone and failed to mention that he needs a timeout and a spanking.”
“I am not about to confess to that woman that I have no control over my own household. She’s already thinking she can handle things better than me anyway.”
“You’re being paranoid, Mom.” Mandy finished her bacon and eggs and eyed the rest I’d cooked in the interim.
I pulled the plate of bacon away from her view so she didn’t get any funny ideas about eating everyone else’s breakfast. Chad would come home soon and be starved. Chad was always starved. And Nick would get up sometime and be unhappy if he had nothing waiting. I was too sick-to-my-stomach mad over the previous night to be hungry. Maybe anger would work where diets had failed me. “It isn’t paranoia if they’re really out to get you,” I said, feeling sullen at having my daughter call me paranoid.
Mandy laughed, got up, and kissed my cheek. “But it is paranoia if they really aren’t out to get you. But paranoia’s kind of a cute look on you.”
“I’m glad you’re my daughter.” I pulled her into a light hug.
“Any mother would be,” she said, smiling. She shook her head and went back upstairs to get ready for the day.
I grimaced at the fact that her plate still sat on the counter, not in the sink or, heaven forbid, the dishwasher. I considered calling her back to put her own dishes away but decided getting her back downstairs would take more energy than my rinsing them and putting them away on my own.
All food went into the warming oven. All dishes went into the dishwasher. And the counters were cleared and ready for the next meal. I went to the dining room, where it joined with the front hall, so I could fetch the book box for the library. I glanced at The Poisonwood Bible sitting on my table and remembered my decision to join Ruby’s book club. My schedule for the next month ran through my mind. I had Junior League, Marie’s piano lessons and her recital, Mandy’s dance academy stuff to deal with, Chad’s play rehearsals and performances if he got the part, and Tyler’s speech therapy. Where would a book club fit?
Nowhere. I’d have to forget about adding one more thing to my life.
I scooted the book off the table and into the box to go to the library. Maybe they wouldn’t care about the dust jacket. It would be best to let the library decide. They could donate the stuff they didn’t want to Goodwill. I glanced into Tyler’s volcano box. I’d have to stop at the party supply place and pick him up some new trees. He certainly couldn’t take the project in like that.
As much as I wanted to get Marie and Tyler home, I couldn’t ignore the fact that the library and the store would be faster errands without them. So with the book box balanced on my hip, I grabbed my keys from the key dish on the counter and opened the door leading to the garage.
“Where are you going?” Nick’s voice called from behind me.
My eyes squeezed closed, and a few words that were less than admirable raced through my mind. “To pick up the kids from your mother’s.”
“What are they doing at Mom’s?”
There would be no quick escape, so I steeled myself against tears and turned to face him. He looked good for a man who’d been out all night and had barely pulled himself out of bed. His messy hair had fine highlights of silvering, nothing major, not enough to call him gray. I hated that I loved the way that looked on him. His bathrobe hung open, revealing his bare chest, which was still toned and solid, and flannel pajama bottoms. He looked like he was doing an advertisement for men’s sleepwear. “They had a sleepover last night. Your mom thought that since it was September twenty-first we’d want to have some time alone together.” I kept the words factual, removing the icy bitterness and the icier accusations. A confrontation wouldn’t help anything.
He considered my words before his expression widened with compre¬hension. So he at least remembered what September twenty-first was supposed to mean, even if he hadn’t remembered that I told him to plan on a special dinner for the occasion. “I had to work—”
“I know.” I cut him off before he could tack on the word late, though his tongue was caught between his teeth in the L position. “Breakfast is in the warmer. I have errands to run before I pick up the kids, so I’d better get going.”
“What errands?” he asked, though his voice carried a hint of contrition, which wasn’t typical.
“The library and then to the party supply store.” I wanted to tell him to mind his own business. I hadn’t asked him where he’d been until two thirty in the morning.
“Who’s having a party?”
Not me. “No one. It’s for Tyler’s volcano project. I need some trees.”
The contrition was gone. He pursed his lips in that way he did when he was about to be critical, cynical, or outright rude. He looked like his mother when he did that. “I’m surprised you call it Tyler’s project. I’ll bet you did all the work on it while Tyler played with his friends.”
I really should have filled his shoes with oatmeal when I’d had the chance. His words embarrassed me enough to cause the heat to climb through the collar of my shirt and onto my face. I knew that meant my neck had red splotches and my cheeks were stained as though I’d used too much makeup. He’d know his words hit their mark.
I didn’t respond, just nodded to acknowledge he’d spoken and turned to get out of the house.
His voice from behind me ripped out any shred of dignity left in me. “Really, Liv. The kids need to take responsibility for their own work. You can’t follow them around once they’re in college, doing their homework and mopping up their dorms.”
I shut the door hard enough that the noise made me jump.
Riptide of my husband.
My heart pounded, and my throat burned with the need to cry some more. After waking up with a headache, the last thing I wanted was to cry again. I shoved the box into the back seat of my Pacifica. It was outdated and the manufacturer didn’t make them anymore, but I loved that car and had decided to run it into the ground before allowing anyone to make me part with it.
I pulled the blue flyer out of my purse, where I’d stuffed it the night before, and dialed the number on my cell.
Ruby answered, sounding cheerful enough in her hello, but when I mentioned the book club, she moved from cheerful to ecstatic. “You saw my flyer then? Wonderful. Wonderful! And I suppose you’re a great reader?”
Did it count if I had been a great reader once? “Of course I am.”
“What’s your favorite recent read?” she asked.
I looked down into the backseat of my car at the book with the scratched cover. “The Poisonwood Bible.”
My answer delighted her. She hadn’t read it yet but had heard wonderful things about it and certainly wanted to give it a try. I hadn’t read it either. But I did have it in my possession, which sort of counted. Ruby grilled me on my schedule, making sure I would actually make it to the monthly Saturday night meeting.
I walked around the car to the driver’s side, agreeing with everything Ruby said, promising I’d be there, promising I was serious.
She ended the call with the statement, “And I’m not a serial killer, so you can feel safe when you come to my house.” She laughed and hung up.
I stared down at my phone. “And somehow that’s supposed to make me feel better?” I asked myself.
“No. No, it really doesn’t,” I answered myself as I turned the key in the ignition and backed out of the driveway, wondering how crazy it made me to have full conversations without the addition of any other person. But I took a liberating breath. Hang that stupid man! I was going to do something for me for a change.
At the party supply store, I picked up some little plastic dinosaurs in addition to the palm trees, knowing I was only buying them to spite Nick. I was grateful the store carried little cake decorations that could be used for anything.
The woman in line in front of me had her cell phone wedged between her shoulder and ear as she paid for her purchases. “Oh, honey, leave him.” She paused while the person on the other end said something. “I know you don’t want to live alone, but living alone is better than living lonely.” She nodded her thanks to the cashier then took her crepe paper and phone call with her.
And that word that had never crossed my mind before this morning came back to me. I could get a divorce. Because, really, the woman with the cell phone was right. Living alone had to be better than living lonely. And I’d been living lonely for a lot longer than I wanted to admit.
- * *
“Hi, DeeAnn. I’m here for the kids.” So many of my smiles around this woman felt painted on—as pretend as a china doll’s smile on her cold, glass face.
A smile like that could break if not handled carefully.
I knew that from past experience.
“Oh, they’re on the back patio. We were having a picnic. They’ll be so sorry to have to leave early.”
Paranoid, Livvy. You’re being paranoid. She couldn’t be criticizing me for coming at this exact moment. She couldn’t be hinting that I’d ruined my children’s day by showing up.
She wasn’t a dragon.
Seemed like a dragon, certainly . . . but wasn’t.
Though she had been the one to call me and say Marie was sick—which hinted at her wanting me to get them earlier rather than later. She had been the one to hem and haw until she couldn’t think up one valid excuse to not take the kids for the night in the first place. She had been the one to cry on my wedding day and say, when she thought she was alone, when she thought no one else could possibly hear her, that if Nick would have just tried harder the first time around, she wouldn’t have to be attending this current disaster.
I wouldn’t have believed that anyone, certainly not my new mother-in-law, would be calling my wedding day a disaster. I wouldn’t have believed it except I had been the one to overhear.
I was the one witness to DeeAnn’s confession. No one else knew. Not even Nick. Why tell him? It would put a wedge between us that would end up damaging us. I couldn’t allow that. DeeAnn warranted proof that she’d been wrong to cry alone in the gardens of my reception hall. I would make Nick so happy that someday she would have to approve of me.
That had always been my plan: to be glad, to be grateful, and to give everything my very best.
I didn’t wait for DeeAnn to lead me to the back patio. I didn’t need an escort and hurried off toward the French doors before we were forced into conversation that would make me drive too fast after it was all over. It scared Tyler when I got like that.
It scared me too.
“Hey, my babes!” I said, thrusting as much cheer into my voice as possible as I planted a kiss on Tyler’s head and pulled Marie out of her chair and into my arms. She was way too big to actually pick up anymore since she was seven now, but I didn’t have her full weight on me since I was bent down and she was still half on the chair. She was a little flushed, and her forehead was warm but nothing dramatic—nothing that popsicles and Tylenol couldn’t fix. I pressed my lips to her forehead then pulled away as if she’d burned me. She giggled.
“I heard you weren’t feeling well, lady love.”
She nodded emphatically. “I’m sick,” she declared.
“Have you eaten anything?”
She shook her head but stopped herself as if the action had caused her pain. “No,” she answered instead. “And my head hurts too.”
I tucked her in closer and started to croon soothing words when, from around the table, I noticed a pair of blue eyes peeking out from a bob of light brown curls. She’d been hidden by the large bouquet sitting on the middle of the table. But now that I was down at her level, I could see that my own kids hadn’t been sitting alone.
Grace—my step-granddaughter—was with them. She sat on a box so her two-year-old body could eat comfortably at a table made for big people.
Before I could process the information or greet the little girl, Jessica, my stepdaughter, arrived on the patio, holding a chubby and smiling baby Kohl in her arms. She came at the same time DeeAnn finally showed up.
“Jess!” And this time my smile was real. I wanted so much for Jessica to feel my love for her—wanted so much for us to have a relationship in some capacity beyond the typical, evil stepmother stereotype. I’d never wanted to be that stereotype for Nick’s kids, and yet I had failed.
Jessica barely knew me beyond the cards on holidays and passing phone calls where I was usually only taking messages for Nick. The kids had come over all the time in the beginning. I couldn’t pinpoint when it had all changed, but one day Nick had just stopped caring that they existed. He couldn’t look at them without his face twisting into one of irritation. He hardly spoke to them except in grunts and shrugs. I tried to help—to make things better. It was as if I’d pushed them on him—pushed him to really see his children—and that had caused him to retreat into himself.
He’d paid the child support without question and without requiring anything in return. He hadn’t expected them to come for holidays. He hadn’t asked for them to come on weekends or during the summer when they were out of school.
And then one day . . . they’d just stopped coming.
Who could blame them?
He hadn’t been the one to walk Jess down the aisle at her wedding. It also hadn’t been her stepfather, Andrew—the man who’d once been Nick’s friend and the same man who’d been caught cheating with The Ex before she’d become The Ex. The man who had walked Nick’s daughter down the aisle had been her new father-in-law.
Nick had been slighted by the whole situation. It had never occurred to him that he wouldn’t be walking Jessica down the aisle. He’d left the wedding early, but I’d stayed—stayed and watched Jess glow and smile in this new family who adored her as much as she adored them. I liked her in-laws and made a point of being friendly with them. These would be the people who would share Nick’s grandchildren. I didn’t want to see those new babies pushed away the same way Jess and her brother, Kohl, had been pushed.
Yet, I hardly ever saw those babies—hardly knew little Gracie or little Kohl—named after his uncle.
I gently nudged Marie back on her chair and gave a hug to Grace and made a big show of loudly kissing her cheeks and neck so she’d giggle. It had been a long time since I’d had little ones like this.
Jess grinned while I kissed on my grandbaby. And I did consider them my grandchildren. They were Nick’s grandchildren, and I was Nick’s wife. That meant they belonged to me too.
“Hey, Livvy!” Jess said, the smile in her greeting as real and as warm as my own. She didn’t hold me responsible for Nick’s bad parenting anymore. She knew I’d tried to make things work for all of us. But she hadn’t really understood until she had married and started having children of her own. The realization that I wasn’t the evil stepmother had come about very slowly for her.
I didn’t blame her for that. How else would she have been able to view me? The Ex had told her a lot of untrue stories about Nick and about me specifically. Nick’s “hands off” approach to everything made the stories seem true. Who could blame a child for believing her mother?
“Hey, Gracie, love. How are you doing?” I asked.
“I good!” Grace said in that high-pitched, sing-song voice that only a two-year-old girl could ever manage to create. I looked over the table of food and tried not to roll my eyes.
“You’ve got finger sandwiches. How elegant!” I said, trying not to feel hypercritical of the fact that DeeAnn was feeding dry, old, boring, grown-up food to little kids.
“Wanted hotdog,” Grace muttered.
I leaned close and whispered in her ear. “When you come to my house next, we’ll have hotdogs and cake and cookies, and we’ll eat it all up under a blanket.”
Her eyes lit up, and she almost burst out loud with whatever kind of excitement she now had, but I hurried and put my finger to my lips so DeeAnn wouldn’t hear things that could make this moment awkward.
It was wrong to try to outdo DeeAnn, but it was a fault I spent a lot of time not worrying about.
I stood up, hating that it hurt my knees a little to make that effort. “So how are things, Jess? The kids both look perfect. How’s Mike?”
“Mike’s great. He’s being promoted—that’s why I needed a babysitter at the last minute. He’s been in training down in San Diego, and they put him up in this insane hotel suite with a hot tub in the room. He asked me to come spend the night last night so we could have a little time together. I hadn’t seen him for a week.”
“You could have called me to babysit,” I declared before thinking about it.
DeeAnn narrowed her eyes. “You needed a babysitter last night as well.”
Jess either didn’t notice or outright ignored the cool tone in DeeAnn’s voice and said, “Exactly. I know when your anniversary is. I wouldn’t have dreamed of infringing on anniversary time. So how was it? Did you two do anything fun?”
How to respond? The truth was unpardonable, but lying would be bad too. “I possibly made the best meal of my life last night.” There. Those words were true. The meal had been beautiful. But I couldn’t let Jess or DeeAnn dig for more information, so I changed the subject. “How is . . . Natalie?” I asked, having to pause to keep myself from calling her The Ex, like I always did in my mind.
“Oh, you know . . . same as always.” Jessica seemed to have taken an extra breath as she looked down at the baby as a distraction. I’d suspected her relationship with her mom wasn’t great, but I couldn’t have imagined the look on Jess’s face just now. That was a look worse than not that great.
“I’m sure she’s doing wonderfully,” DeeAnn said with a smile. “Natalie always manages to sparkle everywhere she goes.”
The only thing that kept me from falling into immense amounts of self-pity at having my mother-in-law compliment The Ex like that was noticing the way it made Jessica shift her weight and look away.
“Well, our baby Kohl is sure losing some of that chub I love so much.” I switched the subject again, for Jessica’s benefit this time, and kissed his feet, which made him smile and coo while he drooled down his shirt.
“He’s walking all over the place—no . . . running is more like it. Baby fat doesn’t stand a chance against that kind of exercise.”
“And how is Uncle Kohl?” I asked, still cooing at his namesake.
Her head jerked up, and she glanced at DeeAnn as if somehow deciding what could be said in such company. “You know my brother.
He’s doing great. You know . . . school, getting good grades, being smarter than everyone else.”
“Well, that’s wonderful.” I glanced around the table at the biscotti and dry sandwiches. The possibility that Marie’s sickness might have something to do with the lameness of the menu didn’t escape me. “Are you staying for their tea party?” I asked Jessica.
“Oh no. There’s a whole list of things I need to do today. I’m afraid I have to be the bad mom and rush the kids on out. I just needed to change Kohl’s diaper before we left.”
Her mouth twisted slightly, and I wondered if it was because DeeAnn hadn’t changed the diaper soon enough—which was totally believable—or if it was because she thought dry sandwiches and biscotti were nasty excuses for a lunch too. I would have stayed and endured DeeAnn if it meant getting to spend time with Jess and the kids. But since Jess wasn’t staying . . .
“I get to be the bad mom too.” I tsked and put my hand on Tyler’s shoulder as he was about to say something to the effect of not minding leaving early. “It was good to see you, Jess. Tell Mike hello for me, and make sure to call me if you ever need a sitter. I’m happy to take my grandbabes for a bit. They’re just so kissable!” And I attacked Grace with more kisses. She giggled some more—a sound I loved like I loved sunshine.
“C’mon Ty-buddy, help me gather yours and your sister’s stuff and take it to the car.” He shot out of the lawn chair without needing to be asked twice. “Say good-bye and thank you,” I reminded him.
“Bye, Nan. Thanks for letting us stay.”
“You’re welcome, Tyler,” DeeAnn said. She never let the kids call her anything besides Nan. She felt that Grandma or Nana made her sound old, in spite of the fact that she was old. So she shortened it to Nan.
Tyler gave Grace a quick hug and tickled Kohl’s belly until the baby made the sort of chuckle that brought a smile to everyone. Tyler really did like his little niece and nephew.
He turned to go when DeeAnn said, “Are you forgetting something, Tyler?”
It appeared as though he’d hoped she’d forgotten too, but he pecked a quick obligatory kiss on her cheek then disappeared through the French doors before he could be instructed to do anything else.
“Well, I’ll be off too. Everything’s already loaded in the car and ready to go.” Jess managed to pick up Grace one-handed and settle the toddler on her other hip. The girl really was a very good mom. “Thanks, Nan. I’d offer to stay and help clean up, but I know today is your maid day, so I won’t worry about it.”
I almost laughed at that as I moved through the house to the front door. I never worried about trying to help clean up anymore because the woman threw fits about everything being done wrong. I always ended up feeling like I’d inconvenienced her—rather than actually helped. I’d have hated to be her maid. DeeAnn’s expectations were borderline criminal. It wouldn’t have surprised me to find out she went through a new maid service every week simply because no one would work for her longer than a few days.
I took a deep breath. Stop it, Livvy. You’re being unkind. I muttered out loud, “I always feel like I need chocolate when I leave this house.”
I hadn’t realized how close behind me Jess was until she caught up the few steps and said, “Could you give me a hand buckling these two in?” She didn’t mention the chocolate comment, either because she really hadn’t heard or because she was too polite. My face warmed because she likely had heard, and it was not a nice thing to say.
“Of course.” I sent Marie, who seemed to be feeling better already, and Tyler off to buckle themselves in while I followed Jessica to her car.
“So . . . I thought I should tell you because he refuses to say anything to Dad, but you know how Kohl signed up for the marines so he didn’t have to have Dad help pay for his college?”
“He’s being deployed. He’ll be gone for a whole year. I’m gonna miss him like crazy.”
“Deployed where?” I asked, feeling sick about Kohl being all on his own for a whole year. Idiot Nick! Giving his son no other options.
“Djibouti, Africa. I don’t even know if I pronounced that right. He leaves in January. Anyway, I wanted to have a good-bye party for him—a way for everyone in the family and all of his friends to wish him well and show their support and all that, but he totally shot me down. He says no one in the family wants to see him off, and he doesn’t want to see any of them either.” She blew at her bangs and grunted as she battled against Kohl’s waving arms to try to get them inside his seatbelt restraints. “I’m not sure what to do. This is huge. I want to make a big deal out of it exactly because it is a big deal. And he keeps shutting me down. What do you think? Should I just let it go?”
“Tanks, ma-maw!” Grace called out in her toddler language as I finished buckling her into her car seat and straightened to face Jessica directly. Jess had the warmest brown eyes I’d ever seen—like wet sand when the setting sun hit it just right—kind of golden brown and filled with light. They were the same color as her father’s eyes.
“You’re welcome, baby,” I said absently to Grace. I pondered Jessica’s question. It was a dilemma I always found myself caught in. How much pushing toward family togetherness was too much pushing?
“I don’t know,” I said finally, leaning against the car. “You’re right. It is a big deal. It totally matters and should be given the attention it deserves.” I almost picked at the paint on the side of the car door where it had peeled away under the humidity of Southern California but stopped myself. Jess would be mortified if I did something like that. Since Mike was being promoted, they’d likely be upgrading the car. This car represented another thing I admired about Jessica. She lived within her means, rather than overspending on play like her mother or overspending on appearances like her father. Jess was so much like me that it seemed wrong that she actually belonged to The Ex.
Kohl? I didn’t understand him nearly as well, if I understood him at all. Kohl may have had his mother’s looks, but he had his father’s stubbornness. He seemed to push people away just like Nick did.
Jessica waited for me to continue.
“Why doesn’t he want a party? Is it because he doesn’t want it? Is he happier as a hermit? Or is it because he’s afraid no one will really care and you’ll be the only one to show up?”
Jessica shrugged. “He doesn’t say anything, but probably both. He says Dad won’t come, and Mom’s never civil.”
The Ex really never was civil. She brewed poison as a hobby—no one could convince me otherwise. Who could blame Kohl for not wanting that to be his farewell before he left for Africa? Add DeeAnn to the mix, and you had the perfect storm. Jessica’s wedding had been proof enough that the family was a sticky entanglement.
“I don’t blame him for worrying, but I don’t blame you for wanting a get-together either. One would hope we could all be in the same room and play nice for the sake of Kohl getting one night where it’s about him and not about the past.”
“The past!” Grace shouted like it was the punch line to the best joke ever.
Grace had it right. The past certainly felt like a joke—only not the funny kind.
That pushed away the indecision. “I think we should do it. I’ll help you set everything up, but maybe let’s pick a neutral location to hold it at. Somewhere where none of the major players get to claim being in charge.”
Jessica smiled. “You don’t think forcing him to do this will make him mad at me?”
I snorted. “It might, but at least he’ll know you love him enough to make the effort to give him a special day.”
“Will Dad come, do you think?”
“Of course he will,” I said with far more confidence than I truly felt. I would have to approach it right. I had until January. That was three months to try to work it out. Hopefully that would be enough time to soften him.
“It’s just that after what happened at the wedding . . .”
“That was almost four years ago.” I almost added that Kohl had been a hotheaded teen at the time, but it hadn’t been Kohl’s fault. He’d just tried to keep Nick from walking out on the wedding, and they’d argued. Kohl hadn’t been wrong to try to get Nick to stay at Jessica’s wedding. Nick had been wrong to leave. They hadn’t talked since—not even when Kohl had graduated from high school. Nick had planned a business trip that weekend on purpose so he had an excuse not to be there.
I patted Jessica’s hand. “He’ll come,” I assured her again.
He’ll come if I have to hit him over the head and drag him there unconscious. He owes it to me after ruining our anniversary.
Jessica smiled and nodded again, her face clear and relaxed with the relief she must have felt to have someone to help make a special day for her brother.
“Hey, Livvy,” Jessica called as I turned to leave.
I turned back.
She broke a Kit Kat bar in half and held one of the halves out to me. “I always need chocolate when I leave Nan’s house too.”
Great beginning for the series
by Lucinda - reviewed on February 28, 2012
I really liked this book. During a tumultuous time in Olivia's life she sees a flyer to join a book club. She is a middle aged housewife and mother, giving completely of herself to her husband and family. This is the first thing she has done something for herself. Each women in the Book Club has trials and circumstances that they turn to each other for support. I really enjoyed how the author used the books they were reading to help Olivia learn and grow, using the text to evaluate herself for improvement. Can't wait for the next book to come out. I am really excited for the next book to come out-- Daisy by Josi S. Kilpack.
can't wait for more!
by Rachel - reviewed on March 03, 2012
I found the book “Olivia” by Julie Wright to be well written, intriguing, and emotional. Olivia is book one in a four book series called “the Newport Ladies Book Club”. This series was written as a celebration of womanhood, motherhood and the friendship and love that we can offer each other, especially in times of trial and despair. The book starts out describing Olivia, her family members and her personal struggles as a mother and wife. She decides to join a book club to help her see the good in something in her life. I liked how the other characters that will be in future books were introduced through the ladies book club. The women get to know each other thru monthly meetings. I found it interesting that most of the women were not willing to open up and share their personal struggles and demons except when one woman individually sought out another woman to help her. I think this demonstrates how important it is to not judge someone on the outside thinking their life is perfect, but to get to know them first. When we serve others unselfishly, we help ourselves as well! I could personally relate to a lot of Oliva’s inner turmoil and struggles with her relationship to her husband and children. I noticed that when Olivia decided to think about all the negative things about her spouse, that caused her more turmoil and anger. However, when she decided to start thinking about all the things he had done for her over the years and how she could help him and their relationship, her attitude seemed to improve and she had more hope in their future. I think that this is an important attitude that everyone should remember in any relationship. I am looking forward to more books from “the Newport Ladies Book Club” in the upcoming year, especially so I can know what happens between Olivia and her husband.
by Kathy - reviewed on February 20, 2012
This is the first book in The Newport Ladies Book Club series. I enjoyed the story of Olivia. Her story seemed real and relevant to women today. When her husband misses their anniversary dinner, she is forced to recognize that her life is no longer what she thought it was. She joins the book club to make friends and to try to find herself. As she gets to know the other women, she realizes that they all have struggles and everybody needs a friend. I really liked the references to the books they were reading and how applicable the stories were to their own lives. I would like to join the book club too! I can't wait to read the other women's stories
Love this book!
by Wendy - reviewed on February 13, 2012
Once I started reading I could not put this book down! It is very thought provoking and rewarding. It causes you to reflect on how important your relationships with family and friends are. The author has a writing style that has some humor and insight that makes the book such a good read. I loved the way she ended the book without leaving you hanging for the rest of the story because you know you are going to hear more about the main character in other books in the series. I highly recommend reading the acknowledgements before starting the story. Looking forward to the rest of the books!
by Erin - reviewed on February 15, 2012
This was a fun start to a new kind of experience. It was exciting to read Olivia's story knowing that next we get to read about the other great women in this book. I look forward to reading the next installment in June.
by Heather - reviewed on January 31, 2012
This first book in the Newport Ladies Book Club series is simply a delight to read. It’s probably my favorite Julie Wright book so far. The writing is lyrical and beautiful, and the story is hard to put down. Olivia is a 40-something year old mother who does everything for everyone. When she finds herself alone on her wedding anniversary night, she realizes she has lost herself in the process of always being there for everyone but herself. Not only has her marriage suffered, but she doesn’t know who “Olivia” is anymore. In a fit of desperation, she reaches out to a neighborhood book club where she discovers that her heart can heal through friendship and her love can bridge even the widest gap.
An Absolute Delight!
by LuAnn - reviewed on February 05, 2012
What a wonderful way to start of a new year of reading! Olivia, the first book in the Newport Ladies Book Club series, was an absolute delight. Yes, the characters face struggles, yes the book brought on some tears, but the optimism of Olivia, the main character, continued to shine through, despite the difficult times she faced. We also met the women who will be telling their own stories in the books to follow, and I can hardly wait. A MUST read for next year's General Fiction category of the Whitney Awards.
Olivia, a book you can't put down.
by Lisa - reviewed on February 18, 2012
I received Olivia by Julie Wright, the first in the Newport Ladies Book Club, in the mail a week ago and read it in a couple of days. It would have been a couple of hours, however life kept inturrupting my reading time. Of course upon receiving this book, I had to read the synopsis on the back. "The Robbins household looks perfect from the outside: no dust, no stains, no wrinkles. Yet a glimpse into its heart reveals no laughter, no closeness, no joy. Olivia thinks that if she keeps everything tidy and serves delicious meals on time, family life is bound to get better. But when her husband, Nick, misses their anniversary, she realizes no amount of domestic success will compensate for failure in their marriage, or for her own failure to develop her identity, always busy as a mother, wife, and neighbor, she has forgotten how to be a unique and vibrant individual. Determined to make a change, Olivia joins a local book club, where she nurtures new friendships and explores new ideas. But her growing confidence falters when Nick declares his independence, and while her new friends lovingly encircle her with support, only Olivia can reach into the depths of her fledgling self to find the faith, hope, and love her troubled family needs." Julie has written a book, which draws the reader into Olivia's family, struggles, and life. I was captured by Olivia and her struggles from the very first page until the end, which left me wanting more and looking forward to reading the other ladies stories as their books will be released over thhis year. Even though some of my struggles in life are different from those struggles Olivia faced, I could relate to her thoughts and feelings. I feel that Olivia and her story are as real to me as if I was sitting down and visiting with my friend. I would highly recommend this book to my close friends and family. I'm looking forward to discovering the rest of the story as I read the other books in this series, written by 3 other talented authors.
Brillant idea for series!
by Stephanie - reviewed on March 12, 2012
First thing I have to say is how brilliant four author friends are to create The Newport Ladies Book Club! I'm looking forward to reading each book from four different ladies/perspectives/characters. Olivia is the first book of the series and is written by Julie Wright. Poor Olivia Robbins! Life is not what it looks like in her home. Her husband works more and more away from home; the children feel his absence; and Olivia cleans. When he ditches her on their anniversary night, she realizes something or someone (mostly her husband, right??) need to change. While out walking off her anger she comes across a flyer beckoning her to take it. A book club is just what she needs to reconnect with other women after giving so much of herself to others. At the club she meets other women who look put together on the outside, but like her, are having personal troubles. And as she reaches out to others, Olivia learns she can stand on her own and do good in her family. In the beginning, Olivia was driving me crazy blaming all the problems on her absent husband. Seriously, like 70 pages of whining. A few chapters later I realized why Julie was writing the beginning that way. Olivia started realizing maybe she had contributed to the situation as well. I hoped the couple would stay together and work out their marriage. This story might feel like true life as other women feel like Olivia. I loved how Olivia reached out to her husband's two children from a previous marriage. She learns that when you reach outside yourself you are truly blessed. Olivia doesn't stand by anymore, hoping not to offend her husband. She takes steps to be a better person/mother/wife. I enjoyed the books the book club picked and their discussion. This book made me want to start a book club! This book kind of reminded of Band of Sisters by Annette Lyon (who is another contributor to this series). I look forward to reading about the other ladies from the book club! Likes: Olivia's growth Books chosen by book club Dislikes: Olivia's whining Couldn't read fast enough! Rating: PG L: No S: No V: No 4 STARS
Fabulous New Series
by Aimee - reviewed on March 08, 2012
I am so intrigued by the concept behind this series of books. It's one of the main reasons I signed on to take part in reviewing The Newport Ladies Book Club series. The genre here can best be described as Women's Fiction. The idea is that these four authors have joined together to write about different women in a book club. The stories happen simultaneously but we get to focus on one lady at a time in each book. Olivia is the first book and the first character we really get to know. I love the cover of this book. It really fits the Newport feel and well, I can't help but be attracted to blue. It's my color. :) Plus the beach is my favorite place. I love the sounds and smells of the ocean side. I really loved following Olivia through the process of self awareness. She has become so wrapped up in making her home and family the ideal that she has forgotten that her own soul is equally important in that whole "ideal" scenario. The book seemed to be made of very real life type stuff. It was easy to relate to and it was easy to find a bit of myself in there too. Olivia begins to discover herself again but I like that it wasn't entirely selfish. She finds bits of herself by helping other people and by allowing others into herself. Change always takes courage and Olivia finds that courage. It was satisfying. We get a glimpse of the other ladies in the book club who will be coming up in future installments of The Newport Ladies Book Club and I'm really excited to read their stories in depth.
A Heartfelt book that Creates an Emotional Experience!
by Sheila - reviewed on July 21, 2012
Reading Olivia was a very emotional experience for me. Olivia told the story of a woman who has always given her all to her husband and children.Along the way she has become lost and doesn't know who she is anymore. The novel starts where Olivia and her husband, Nick, are having marital problems. All of a sudden she realizes that she needs to do something to find herself.This is when she joins a local book club, all strangers. This is a scary prospect for some people. I loved the whole idea of this book club bringing this group of women together.It was delightful to see friendships grow, along with Olivia's confidence. I have read most of the books written by Julie Wright. This book, so far, is her best and most well-written book. The character development is so well done, the reader will be able to relate to all of the women in the book club on some level. The emotions are so real, and there is a lot of angst filled moments. Julie truly pegs a marriage in trouble; which is amazing since I know Julie has a fantastic marriage. I'm not telling you what happens with Olivia, but I will say that she changes and grows a lot. As she changes, so do the people around her. Olivia will make you think and ponder. It will make you cry and search your own feelings. If you are looking for a heartfelt book, with real-life characters, that tell an enlightening story, then Olivia is for you. Go to my blog to read an awesome interview I did with author Julie Wright! http://whynotbecauseisaidso.blogspot.com/2012/07/review-of-olivia-book-one-of-newport.html
Well Worth the Read!
by Lisa - reviewed on February 14, 2012
I've just finished reading the first of The Newport Ladies Book Club series: Olivia. I expected the book to be a more than adequate read, one that was well worth the time spent. What I didn't expect was to get caught up in the characters, read it in less than twenty four hours and end up in tears before the book was through. Olivia is not your run-of-the-mill two dimensional character. Rather she's a believable, three dimensional, character with lovely strengths as well as flaws. I found myself caring deeply about her struggles, and wanted, oh-so-badly, for her to have a happy ending. Part way through the book, I was sure I knew where the book was going. What a lovely surprise when I turned out to be dead wrong. This book is a classic example of what I look for in a novel: relationships; humor; a nicely paced, moving narrative; and believable dialogue. It left me wanting more. Here's to Daisy in June!!
relatable characters and good writing
by Emily - reviewed on April 10, 2012
I empathized with Olivia’s character straightaway in this book, as a woman who tries to always look on the bright side and do the right thing, I felt like we had much in common. It was rewarding to see her make friends and reach out and help those around her. I really liked her character and how she felt like a real everyday person you would meet at church or at work. I feel like the author’s writing has improved even more from the last time I read one of her books. I loved Cross My Heart, but sometimes felt that several portions of the book felt awkward or were less polished. The writing in this book never took me out of the story, I always wanted to come back and read more whenever I had to put it down. The characters are strong, the conflicts relatable, and the personalities involved were interesting and felt realistic. I am so excited to read the rest of this series and see how these wonderful authors portray the book club from different points of view.
by Andrea - reviewed on February 09, 2012
I received Olivia in the mail yesterday and was very excited to start reading this first book in the Newport Ladies Book Club series. The series is written by four authors well-known in the LDS market (Julie Wright, Josi S. Kilpack, Annette Lyon, and Heather Moore). Part of what drew me to The Newport Ladies Book Club is that it is intended for a national audience. It always makes me happy seeing LDS authors using their talents for a broader market. I don't always read book dedications and acknowledgements, but for some reason I did with this one. The tears started flowing during Julie Wright's acknowledgements as she talked about women (both friends and kind strangers) who have offered a smile or a shoulder to cry on. My friends (which include my family) are so important to me. I depend on them and really appreciate them! Olivia tells the story of a 40-something mother of four that finds herself struggling. Her husband has become very distant, and she's not sure who she is anymore. One particularly bad evening she sees a flyer for a book club and decides to join. The friends she makes and the books she reads help her cope with her problems. It was good that I kept a tissue handy, as I needed it a few times during the novel. There are some light moments, but overall it's pretty heavy. Although the focus is on Olivia, each of the book club members has had some significant trials. I couldn't relate to many of their issues (thankfully!), but I could definitely relate to the importance of good friends and being there for those around you. A very touching story and a great start to the series.
A great beginning to a new series!
by Tamera - reviewed on February 18, 2012
This is a new series called The Newport Ladies Book Club from some of my favorite authors, so I jumped at the chance to review it! My thoughts This was a fantastic book! I laughed, I cried and I really want to join a book club! Poor Livvy really gets put through the ringer, when she thinks that she is doing everything for everyone. Her house is always clean, she always does service for others when they ask, and has no idea why her husband is acting so strange. She knows he would never cheat on her, which is one less worry. But, she has no idea why he left. Luckily, she joins a book club that helps her by letting her serve others and seeing that she isn't the only one who has problems! She gets "Heaven reminders" that help her know when to help people and usually she feels better too. I love it! I especially love the happy ending. I was really wondering about that Nick. I didn't think it was nearly as bad as he made it out to be! I can't wait to read the rest of the series!
by Susan - reviewed on February 13, 2012
As the debut novel for The Newport Ladies Book Club series, Olivia launches the series with the sincere passion of a woman whose only goal to is make her husband and children happy. But everyone is not happy and all in not well in Livvy’s family. So the plot thickens as Livvy draws us into her troubled marriage and into her “sticky” life. In an attempt to cope with her increasing family turmoil, Livvy joins a book club despite her husband’s jibe that she’s hasn’t had friends for years. At the book club, Livvy meets Daisy, Paige, and Athena, 3 strangers, 3 different lives, 3 novels to come. I expected an interesting story, what I didn’t expect was Livvy to win my friendship too. I went from being an interested observer of Livvy, with her annoying Pollyanna creed, to being her #1 cheerleader when she finally let out the agonizing scream that filled her empty house. I laughed at Livvy’s humorous judgments of the other book club women. I felt the compassion the women shared with each other, guardedly and insecurely at first, and openly later as they understood each other better. I would describe Olivia as compelling: compelling in it painful events, compelling in its sincerity, compelling in its underlying plea for women to lift and encourage each other when it is easier to ignore or judge each other. Through Olivia, Wright shows us how much it means when we care for each when life is hard, and we’d rather cry alone. Olivia was not a feel good novel in a fairy tale sense. In fact, it wasn’t even relaxing. I won’t get back the sleep I lost while reading this novel, but I enthusiastically recommend it. And I’m looking forward to joining the book club again with Daisy in June.
A Great Read for Every Woman
by Victoria - reviewed on March 08, 2012
I’ve found a new friend in Olivia! I can’t believe how emotionally invested I became in this story and its characters from the very beginning. I’m thrilled to be a part of the Newport Ladies Book Club! I didn’t want to put this book down. I laughed, I cried and I want more! Olivia is a great read for women of every age and circumstance. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series! This is the first book I’ve read by Julie Wright, but it certainly won’t be the last! She had me at “Thank you”. Even the acknowledgements of the important women in the author’s life really touched me.
Great start to an adorable series
by Jennifer - reviewed on February 10, 2012
I love to find a new series and the Newport Ladies Book Club doesn't dissapoint. Each of the books in the series is written by a different author: Julie Wright, Josi Kilpack, Annette Lyon and Heather B. Moore. Gals we al know and love--So far, so good. The books each focus on a different woman in the book club and we get to see their lives intertwine as they struggle through trials and find support in each other. The really fun thing for readers is seeing the characters' lives weave together throughout all four books. By the end, we'll have the whole picture--exciting, right? I think so. The first book, is about Olivia. She is the classic "Donna Reed" perfectionist with a clean house, handsome husband, beautiful kids, home made Halloween costumes, and delicious family dinners. But we come to find out that Olivia is trapped in a seemingly loveless marriage with a husband who is increasingly distant to her. Determined to make her family perfect, she delves deeper into motherhood, housekeeping and cooking and doing so, fails to develop herself as a person. The book club not only gives her the opportunity to make new friends that she can lean on for support during her trials, but through reading and discussing the books, she gains perspective through self-introspection and realizes that she needs to change. She learns that the things she has seen as her weaknesses are actually her strengths and sets out to make her family life better. I have to say, this book was hard to read. I was teary most of the time as I watched Olivia struggle, but in the end, I felt such triumph as she found her inner strength and changed things for the better. That's what I enjoyed about it, the personal connection I felt with the main character, and subsequently for her family members, book club buddies and even her husband. It was extremely tender and so well-written. I love Julie Wright's books and this one didn't dissapoint. I can't wait for the next one--Daisy will be out this June! The Authors have a cute blog where you can read about the series. I love that it tells what books are going to be discussed in each book (does that make sense?) So, it's like WE are in the book club, too! http://thenewportladiesbookclub.blogspot.com/
Wonderful & Unexpected
by Nashelle - reviewed on February 13, 2012
I would call myself an avid reader. That being said, reading a book about a Book Club seemed very exciting. I was all set to learn about books from other women's perspectives and learn about some good reads that I could look up. But oh how wrong I was. This book, though part of the Newport Ladies Book Club series, is not primarily about the book club. This book is about Olivia, a 40-something woman who believes that if she is the perfect wife and mother, everything in life will get better. However, when her husband misses their anniversary dinner and begins to distance himself from her and their children, she begins to realize that not everything will be fixed with timely meals and a spotless house. Deciding she needs to begin taking action for herself and remember who she is as an individual, Olivia decides to join a book club and begins to meet women who influence her life in countless ways as she searches for faith, hope, and healing. This book was very honest and reflected on a real life of a woman with challenges. However, Olivia's determination and 'Pollyanna attitude' pulled me in so strongly that I finished the book in one sitting. OLIVIA is rich with emotion and feeling as well as being a motivation to look for the happy things in life no matter how hard.
3 Reasons I loved this book
by Angela - reviewed on February 15, 2012
1. I loved that Olivia is over 40 and she faced real life trials. Marriage, Teenagers and Self-worth and a few more. 2. Olivia's book club books helped shape her decisions on life and brought insight into books that I missed in my own reading. 3. I loved the suspense Julie Wright created. I needed to keep reading to know how Olivia solved her problems. I was hooked to the last page. If you've ever read a Julie Wright book and thought, "I'd share this with my friend, but she's not LDS." This is the book to buy, share, and give away.
An excellent read
by Kaye - reviewed on February 17, 2012
I’m intrigued by the premise—four books in a series by four different authors. In the Newport Ladies Book Club: Olivia we meet eight women. Eventually each will have a book of her own. Julie Wright, in Olivia, has launched a “must-read” with her themes, characters, plot, humor, and style. Wright’s theme of friendship is strengthened and modeled by the books within a book. The books the friends study together are reflective of the issues Olivia is facing in her own life. Good books they are. In fact, knowing that I am often lifted by good writing, knowing how truths channeled through a good book solidifies my own truths, I would have enjoyed even more of the study in book club. The characterizations in Olivia are developed through Olivia’s—Livvy’s—eyes. I like the Pollyanna part of her character as she struggles with a modern woman’s life of busy husband, children, and large house. In fact, surely she is like someone I know—a neighbor, a family member, maybe myself. Her efforts to be perfect are laudable and her dismay as her life seems to be crumbling around her is puzzling and troubling, just like someone I know. Livvy’s husband, Nick, is, I suppose, necessarily less dimensional because we aren’t in his head. We see him only through Livvy’s eyes, strengthening the power of point of view. Characterizations of some of the children are more developed than others, but I find them interesting and, well, normal. Wright deftly weaves plotlines through everyday life. In fact, everyday life is the plot. However, this plot development has none of the “slice of life” seediness we expect from realism; nevertheless this family and these events ring true. Wright’s sense of humor raises its head at most unlikely times. I like that. After one difficult interchange with her husband Livvy thinks “I stuck out my tongue at his retreating back because that’s what classy, mature women did when their husbands irritated them.” At the first meeting of the book club, Livvy, necessarily self-conscious, reflects “They’d think I was a lunatic for sure, and that would be before they discovered that I talked to myself.” The writing style, the controlled use of language and the twists and turns of Livvy’s life lured me back to the book every free minute. Development from suspicion to discovery and the revelation of the “problem” kept me reading and keep me thinking about Livvy long after the last page has been turned. On the whole, an excellent read. Wright has crafted a tight, interesting, insightful novel. I wanted little things tweaked a bit more. For example, I wanted more detail in the setting (I know Newport Beach, California) and more insights into the books discussed in book club, and I’m looking forward to the next three books about the Newport Ladies Book Club which will surely bring me some of that.
A woman we all know...
by Brooke - reviewed on February 20, 2012
I was quickly caught up in Olivia's life from the very first page. I found myself aching over her heartbreaks, championing her successes, and identifying with her day-to-day struggles as a mother and wife. I love that she finds strength, escape, and renewed purpose in the arms of her Book Club ladies. We all can see a part of ourselves in this beautiful Olivia character.....
Olivia needs to find out how to fix her life before it's too late
by Colleen - reviewed on February 20, 2012
This is the first book in The Newport Ladies Book Club Series. It was beautifully written and had me feeling an emotional pull towards the main character Olivia. This book taught me not to be afraid to communicate, not just with a spouse, but with friends, or family. People tend to build up frustration and heartache when no one communicates and it may turn into something worse....like Divorce. Don't be afraid to listen to that small voice, telling you to call or make a visit to someone you think is doing fine, when in all reality they may have lost a loved one, or they are a single mother of 2 and money is tight. You could be that persons strength and support. Be the Wise Man who built his house upon the rock, even if you started out being the Foolish Man who built his house upon the sand. Julie Wright did a fantastic job making this story come to life and reel you in page by page. http://fortheloveofbooks-colleen.blogspot.com/
Excellent vacation read!
by Andrea - reviewed on February 21, 2012
OLIVIA, by Julie Wright, is the first of The Newport Ladies Book Club series, which consists of four books, written by four different authors (who collaborated together), following the stories of four women who are drawn together by their love of reading. It's fun to get to know the four ladies and see what trials they are facing and how they handle them. I really liked the main character, Olivia. She's very relatable and likable. She goes through a lot in this book and you're heartstrings are pulled quite a bit. I love how she discovers she's much stronger than she thought she was, and how she chooses to handle her difficult circumstances is very admirable to me. I don't want to spoil the ending, but I will just say this: it was good, and not what I expected at all. I love when I can't predict the ending to a book, and to be surprised, this book did that for me! The other characters in this book are very interesting and all so different from each other. I'm totally excited to see the other books from their point of view and to see how they view the world. The way the characters meet and tie together was great. I like how they interact and the felt like there was foreshadowing in this book for the other characters that we will get to know much more closely once the entire series is out. Seriously makes me so excited to get my hands on the rest of this series! Thank heavens we don't have to wait a year in between books, they are all coming out this year (2012) - sa-weet!
I want more!!!
by Customer - reviewed on February 27, 2012
I was excited to read this book and felt like the author opened her front door and let me into her story. I was an enthusiastic participant of the book club and felt like these women were becoming my friends too. I was completely sucked into the story and found myself encouraging some of the characters and on occasion, frowning at their choices. I even felt sorrow for Athena and her loss. The story showed the many sides of each person’s personality and I could see several people I know in each of the characters. I felt myself examining my own relationships and trying to see with different eyes how I felt and dealt with my family and friends. I can hardly wait to read on and discover the other Book Club ladies individual stories. June can’t come fast enough.
by Connie - reviewed on March 06, 2012
As I got to know Olivia more she at first reminded me of some women I know. Many women almost kill themselves trying to please their husband and children, and never quit reach their expectation. I was excited to see Olivia realize that she needed to do something for herself. Olivia became true to herself, and fought for what would bring her family closer together. Things became difficult at times for herself, but she persisted. Julia made a believable character, one that I grew to love and admire. I'm anxious to see what the other women in the series are like. It is a series that I will tell my book club and friends about.
by Mindy - reviewed on March 31, 2012
4 1/2 stars. I loved this book. Julie is such an amazing writer. Her biggest strength is writing great characters. I can't wait for the the other books in the series. http://www.ldswomensbookreview.com/wordpress/2012/02/21/olivia-by-julie-wright/
Enjoyable Book, Interesting Series
by Debbie - reviewed on August 02, 2012
A fun beginning to The Newport Ladies Book Club, it was fun getting to know all of the members of the club, and getting to know Olivia's story. It is interesting how each author is interweaving more of each of the participant’s stories into the other stories, and how, at the end, we will have a better understanding of each of the Book Club's members. I’ve enjoyed how each book stands alone, but enhances the other books in the series!