July 26, 2010

Book Review: Pieces of Happily Ever After by Irene Zutell

Posted in Book Reviews tagged , , , , , at 9:07 am by The Word Jar

Pieces of Happily Ever After, Irene Zutell’s latest novel, isn’t a fairy tale. It’s about real life, where you can be banished to the far-off land of Suburbia to occasionally play the role of wicked (step)mother to your own daughter, while the evil (and beautiful) Queen of Hollywood steals your husband instead of simply sending you a poisoned apple.

Alice Hirsh is the newest star of this anti–fairy tale. Alice’s husband, Alex, shatters their simple but lovely life together when he’s swept off his feet by Hollywood’s latest “It” girl. Once Alice realizes that it is now just her and Gabby, her daughter who is obsessed with all things princesses and happy endings, she finds herself in relationships she never would have dreamed of before her husband left her in Suburbia for another woman.

Zutell creates a compelling supporting cast of characters who feel like they could be found in any woman’s circle of acquaintances, friends, and relatives. An uptight neighborhood chairwoman obsesses over the neighborhood’s annual Christmas lighting display. A former adult film star tries to literally erase her past. The domineering head of an adult care home evicts Alice’s mother, who recently started cursing like a sailor. Round it out with an ogre of a paparazzo, a charming ex-boyfriend who reconnects with Alice via email, and a group of mothers who look like they have it all together on the surface and Pieces of Happily Ever After easily balances out Alice’s heavy loss with these eccentric characters who help Alice take care of herself as she struggles to take care of everyone else.

Pieces of Happily Ever After is about more than just the husband/wife relationship. It’s a charming read about the relationships women form—as mothers, daughters, friends, spouses—that help get them through both good times and bad. More importantly, it’s about the relationship women have with themselves. It’s about what they expect for and from themselves in relationships, what they’ll put up with and what’s worth leaving behind. Because when you finally determine what you are worth to yourself, you can appreciate the random moments in life—being your daughter’s knight in shining armor, spending one final moment with a loved one, learning to take a chance on yourself—that are the true pieces of happily ever after.

(Be sure to check out A Few Words With…Irene Zutell!)

(Review copy source: St. Martin’s Griffin via LibraryThing)

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