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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 wasn’t coming home.
The grandfather clock I’d inherited when my mom died chimed eleven times, each marking the late hour and seeming to mock me for waiting as long as I had. The candles on the dining room table had burned to stubs, white wax dripping off the collars of the candlesticks and onto the table.
I stared at the wax, pooled and dried to the shiny oak surface, and couldn’t even muster the ability to care that it was likely leaving a waxy ring that would never come out of the wood without stripping, sanding, and restaining. It was all work I’d do on my own. He’d be mad, and he’d comment on how it showed my lack of . . . whatever it was I should have. And then he’d fume silently for a while longer before moving on to something else that actually interested him, something that wasn’t me, something that wasn’t our anniversary dinner sitting cold around the two flames bobbing above their almost-spent candles.
Nick hadn’t even called.
Hours had gone into preparing the dinner. Hours of my life I’d never get back. Creamed peas, asparagus with that maple-mustard sauce he loved, grilled lemon garlic halibut, and fresh homemade rolls. I scraped my chair back and blew out the flames, my breath sweeping more wax down onto the table.
I flipped on the light switch and pressed my palms into my temples as I paced around the table. When did we come to this? How did we get to uneaten anniversary dinners? We used to be a fun couple. We used to be the couple everyone envied—the one everyone wanted to be like. He used to be the one surprising me with flowers and kissing me loudly in front of our small children just to hear them say, “Ew! Gross!”
The pendulum of the clock ticked off every moment he wasn’t home as though it were personally keeping track. What should I do?
With a sigh, it occurred to me that the only thing to do at the moment was clear the table and throw out the food since it had been sitting out for more than four hours. I’d picked at it after the first hour, taking nibbles from the sides where it wouldn’t disrupt the visual effect—as if it had mattered. At least the only dishes I’d have to wash were the serving dishes and the cooking pans. There. That’s better. Find something positive. Breathe deeply, and look for something to be glad about.
It sounded Pollyanna but was a habit I’d picked up as a child when my mom had snuggled under a lap blanket with me and watched old classics, Pollyanna among them, while thunder pounded the sky and wind howled through the rafters of my childhood home. Those had been good days in years filled with good days; I’d been held in the safety of my mother’s arms, warm and loved and needed. The glad things in my life seemed endless at the time, and counting them all had sounded like fun.
Mom had encouraged me to be like Pollyanna. And later she told me my personality quirk had gotten her through some rough times in her own life. She’d once called me her life preserver. What would she say if she could see me now, clearing an uneaten meal from my dining table in a home too large to feel cozy and too cold to feel homey? A forty-one-year-old woman with four kids and a husband who didn’t remember the plans of a special anniversary dinner? A woman who hid the gray sneaking into her brown hair with bottles of blonde dye? A woman who could find precious little in her cold, silent house to feel glad about?
The china plate I’d been holding slammed into the wall and shattered into an explosion of porcelain, startling me enough that I jumped.
But what startled me more than the fact that I’d thrown a grossly expensive plate into my decorator wall, leaving a dent of chipped blue paint and white drywall, was the fact that the action offered real relief.
I felt better having thrown the plate.
So I threw the other one.
“You’re an idiot, Livvy,” I told myself. “Who do you think is going to clean that up?”
Talking to myself was a habit I’d picked up after my mom died four years ago. My dad had died before her. I had no siblings. Mom’s passing left me vacant. She’d had a blood clot that had found its way to her brain when she’d been out watering her red hibiscus. The hose was still running, pointed up at a crazy angle, caught between her arm and body, when I’d found her. The mulch had floated on top of the little pond of water, and the drenched flowers had drooped with the water weight as though they were bowing their heads in respect for the woman who would no longer care for them.
I bowed my own head now. She was no longer caring for me either.
Even at forty-one, I needed my mommy. I blinked back the sting in my eyes for the want of her arms around my shoulders.
I went to the kitchen and came back with the dust pan and a little sweeper. “The same person who made the mess is the one who’s going to be cleaning it, that’s who.” It’s one thing to talk to yourself, but I’d started answering myself two years ago when I’d realized no one else ever did.
I stayed on my tiptoes to keep from crunching the glass into the hardwood floor as I swept around and under me, running the hand broom along the edge of the open cardboard boxes and into the dust pan before I dared to actually look inside the two boxes—donations to the library book drive in one box and my son’s fourth grade volcano project in the other. Books and volcano both had a new coating of porcelain chunks and splinters.
I stood up and dumped the contents of the dust pan into the trash then pulled out the vacuum and the hose attachments so I could suck the little shards out of the boxes without cutting myself. A lot of the sand used to make Tyler’s volcano look more realistic and a couple of the plastic palm trees I’d picked up at the Newport Birthday Party Supply House went the way of vacuum bags. By the time I was done, I’d scratched up a couple of the books with the end of the hose and made the volcano scene look like the remnants of a long-dead planet. I hoped the books weren’t first editions.
“What’s all the noise in here?” Amanda stood in the doorway of the dining room, her arms folded across the pink tank top she slept in, which completely clashed with the green flannel bottoms covered in smiling skulls. She’d been studying at her friend’s house and had planned on spending the night. Her brown hair strayed from the sloppy ponytail.
“Why are you home? I thought you were staying at Cassi’s.” It was just as well she’d come home. It wasn’t like the big anniversary plans had panned out anyway. When Amanda said she’d be at her friend’s and my oldest child, Chad, had said he’d be doing a game night at a buddy’s house, I’d called the in-laws to see if they’d take Tyler and Marie. I didn’t ask for those kinds of favors very often from my in-laws—even if they did live only a half hour away. The in-laws were complicated in ways that made me tired.
“Cassi’s brother is a creep. He and his friends ate all the good food and then wouldn’t turn off their stupid games. I finished the project and just want sleep now. What are you doing?” She stepped farther into the dining room.
“I dropped a plate. I needed to clean it up.”
“You could do that in the morning. You’re going to wake up Dad. It’s like . . . midnight.”
“Dad’s not home yet.” I didn’t bother correcting her about the time. It was only just past eleven.
Her eyes swept quickly over the table, the candles, the dinner, and the dent in the wall. In less than a glance, understanding dawned on her face. “Dropped the plate, huh?”
I swallowed and looked down, feeling stupid for having been caught throwing the kind of tantrum she was famous for in our family.
She laughed. “Looks like you dropped it real hard against the wall.” She wandered over to me and traced her fingers over the new dents. “Looks like you dropped it real hard against the wall twice.”
Nothing could be said to dignify my actions. Not denial or admission. So I stayed quiet, feeling the heat crawl up my neck and into my face.
“Did he at least call?” she asked, the humor gone from her voice.
I shook my head and coiled the vacuum hose.
She took a sharp intake of breath, as if she’d been about to shout something but then had changed her mind. She nodded and gave me a gentle hug. “I’m going to bed. You should too.” Her whisper was barely audible. She turned and left, her feet treading softly on the stairs like she still worried she might wake up her father who wasn’t home.
By the time I’d cleaned up the dinner and the tantrum, my soul felt scoured. I checked the boxes again to make certain there weren’t any stray bits of plate still hanging around and inspected the top book in the library box—Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible.
The dust jacket had been scratched pretty badly from my raking the hose nozzle over it. Donating something so damaged seemed uncharitable in every way. And they’d already asked us not to use the donations as a chance to discard worn and unwanted items but instead to try our best to donate quality merchandise. It had been quality merchandise when it had been donated by one of the neighbors.
I ran a finger along the new scars of the book. Reading had once been a favorite pastime. What had happened to time that actually belonged to me?
I hefted the book out of the box, liking the weight of it in my hands. It felt like something of substance, something more than the emptiness the evening had brought me. I opened the book and began to read.
Imagine a ruin so strange it must have never happened.
I read a few pages in, right up to the sentence:
I had washed up there on the riptide of my husband’s confidence and the undertow of my children’s needs.
I snapped the book closed, looking at my surroundings anew with those words echoing through me. I wasn’t in Africa, wasn’t in any jungle more ferocious than the 405 freeway, and yet, sitting there on the floor between boxes of charity and childhood, my hands dried out from antibacterial dish soap, I felt I had been washed up on the riptide of my husband’s confidence and the undertow of my children’s needs.
The house was in perfect shape, no dust—not even on the blades of the ceiling fans—nothing out of place or amiss in the Robbins household. Nicholas didn’t yell or throw tantrums. He certainly never threw dishes at a wall. But over the years, he’d become silent. The silence felt like disapproval in so many ways. I kept thinking if I did things better, worked harder, he would start talking to me again.
He’d been married before, but it had ended badly . . . with him catching her and his best friend together having breakfast in bed—his bed. We had dated for almost two months before he’d confessed to having an ex-wife. Along with that information came the confession that he also had two small children.
He’d expected me to walk away. Looking back, sometimes it felt that he’d told me about his past and his two children with the intention of me walking away. But when I was excited to meet his kids and take on this new challenge, he finally opened up.
I felt like I’d passed a test. He knew my devotion was total. If an ex and two kids didn’t make me waver, nothing would.
It had worked out well enough . . . in the beginning. His kids became my kids. And then we started having our kids—four of our own to add to his two. We should have been a happy family of eight. But somewhere along the way, Nick had compartmentalized his life from before and his life with me, no matter how hard I tried to mesh us all into one family unit. He distanced himself from things that weren’t perfect. His previous marriage had been imperfect, and he distanced himself from that life—even the kids from that life.
But I was also imperfect. Is that why he distanced himself from me? My body had filled out over the years, going from a toned size six to a softened size twelve. And I did throw dishes at the wall—not that he’d ever know about that because I’d never admit to it and Mandy would never rat me out. I’d pull out the spackle and paint tomorrow and fix it myself. Calling someone to fix it would require paying a bill I’d have to explain later. I stared at the newly bruised wall and hoped a repair job was possible.
But so what if it wasn’t?
What if my patch-up job looked worse? Who was around to care? My undertow children were all nestled away in beds somewhere, and my riptide husband had yet to make an appearance. I scrambled to my feet—my body not reacting to my brain’s commands as swiftly or as easily as it once had—dropped The Poisonwood Bible on the table—I’d been right about the wax leaving its mark on the table—and headed to the front door.
I needed some air.
Walking at night was not a habit of mine. I lived in an upscale area, but it was still California, and smart women didn’t go walking around on their own at midnight without at least a bottle of pepper spray and a cell phone. But anger fueled the walk. Any punk kid who might try messing with me would find himself turned upside down in a dumpster.
My anger flowed from one source.
He would excuse himself tomorrow with, “I had to work late.” And that would be the last of it.
But it wouldn’t be the last of it. He’d do it again. And again. And again.
What killed me was the wondering. Was it work? He was a CFO at Soft Tekk. Could that work be exciting enough to keep him hours away from his home? Was it a woman—a secretary, a coworker, a barmaid he’d met in some dark, smoke-filled place where he could watch a Lakers game without the kids running through the house making noise? Or was it worse? Was it simply the fact that he’d rather do anything than be with me?
He escaped our marriage every day through the convenient excuse called work. And yet his life spun a web around me that held me cocooned in place while he came back on occasion to feed on my energy.
His house. His children. His community. My responsibility.
I turned toward the shops. Too bad it was the middle of the night. No comfort shopping for me. I passed a nail spa in a strip mall. No comfort manicures either—not that I ever really indulged in things like that. It was an expensive habit, and the kids were always needing something that competed for the financial attention. A few doors down from the nail spa, a blue flyer taped to the door flitted in the night breeze. In a brief moment of need, I imagined it was waving to me—asking me to stop and read whatever message it had for me and me alone.
Looking for serious readers to join the Newport Ladies Book Club.
Women only! Eating and good conversation!
Space limited. Call Ruby Crenshaw asap.
I looked up to see the sign above the shop. Grey’s Used & Rare Books. A book club. How long had it been since I’d held a novel in my hands for the sheer pleasure of losing myself in its pages? How long had it been since I’d held any book without needing to stuff it in a box for charity or a backpack for a child or a shelf to put it away for when the riptide wanted it?
No. That wasn’t fair. Calling Nick a riptide every four seconds would get me nowhere. Find something glad.
But there wasn’t anything glad I could associate with Nick at that moment. Even the fact that I lived in a beautiful home and had beautiful children just made me tired—not glad at all. It reminded me of schedules and soccer games and visits to the dry cleaners and grocery shopping and school functions and Junior League meetings and volunteer work and cleaning a house that never felt like home anymore. Tired.
The breeze picked up, and the little flyer waved at me again. I pulled the blue paper from the door, feeling guilty for removing it and hoping the bookstore owner had a spare to put up. Even if I didn’t have to face my minister every Sunday, I hated taking anything that wasn’t mine.
Depression replaced anger for the walk home. I blinked away the sting in my eyes again, imagining him cuddling up with some flirty female who wasn’t me.
But the accusation in that image wasn’t fair either. Nick had once been the victim of infidelity. Cheating was something he abhorred, something that made him physically ill. Nick was the last man on the planet who would be the cheater. He didn’t even cheat at Monopoly back when he’d stayed home long enough to play a game with us. And there had been no evidence of infidelity—aside from his absence.
But what did absence prove, if not infidelity? It proved he didn’t care enough to be with me. Another woman or not, I’d been rejected. He didn’t need or want me.
I looked down at the paper in my hand and considered it. The woman’s name was Ruby. I needed something with the ability to shine in my life. A ruby was as good as anything. And for the first time since setting the table for dinner, I found something to be truly glad about. Because I was going to, for once, do the selfish thing. I was going to join a book group, read, eat, and have good conversation.
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!
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