Title: Just What I Always Wanted by Nancy Roman
Genre: Literary Fiction, Humor and Satire
Publication Date: August 8, 2014
Print Length: 381 pages
Source: Free offering promo from author
Title and Cover: Just What I Always Wanted – Great portrait catches attention
Cynthia Breault needs a new life.
She’s not miserable. She’s bored. Bored with her safe monotonous job; bored with her cautious loneliness.
Thanks to an unexpected financial windfall, Cynthia opts for early retirement at fifty, hoping to find a new passion. Soon, she thinks she’s found it – in the form of a failing boutique abandoned by its mysterious owner. And the shop is not the only thing the proprietor has deserted. There’s a very nice husband left behind as well.
Until Cynthia meets Shannon Miller. Shannon is fourteen, a tough and defiant casualty of the foster care system. And she’s pregnant.
Irresistibly drawn to this foul-mouthed, sarcastic, but vulnerable teenager, Cynthia rediscovers long-buried memories.
Suddenly the store seems unimportant. And hoping she can explain to the new man in her life – eventually, anyway – Cynthia takes the leap.
She offers Shannon a deal. With strings attached.
If they both get what they want, does it matter that their scheme is just slightly illegal?
Back when I started my blog, with absolutely no clue what I was doing (and that is still a topic for discussion), I found the blog, Not Quite Old. I could so identify and followed Nancy Roman immediately and lo and behold she was also writing and publishing a book. (I was trying to publish my grandfather’s manuscripts at the time.) I really enjoyed her contemplative writing style and thought if I ever had the money, I’d buy her debut novel which came out in 2014. Noticing she put it on a special freebie just after the first of this year, I jumped on it. I just knew it would be good. (Also recommended to my associate reviewer and his thoughts are below.) Was I right?
Poignant, emotional, and heartbreaking alternately with savage bits of humor. Savage or sarcastic? Caustic? Sardonic and derisive; perhaps we are talking Greek tragedy here. The narrator-protagonist, Cynthia, is at that mid-life crisis in her life and a reliable if vulnerable narrator. She is ready to stir up her pat and boring life as an accountant and retires. But to do what? At fifty and unmarried, she is also lonely. She has a strong family network, two (older) sisters who couldn’t be more polar opposites and a solid Catholic upbringing. It all seems to begin so innocently. She gets that “third sign” so many of us have gotten and learned not to ignore and her life takes a ninety-degree turn–right off the deep end, which usually happens with these things!
If you’ve ever lived with the drama of a fourteen-year-old daughter, perhaps you can get a slight glimmer of how many kinds of hell a pregnant fourteen-year-old group home ex-foster care child might be. How many ways are there to La-La Land? So many…
This well-plotted story goes so out of control so quickly and you are sucked in so deeply, there won’t be any reprieve until the conclusion. Still, you keep hoping for some…
that this might actually work.
The conclusion leaves no loose threads and yet the author has still planned one giant twist for you and it’s a direct smack to the gut. It’s going to take a few minutes to get some sensibility back and take a breath, before you utter, “wait…what??!”
I must warn of the censorable dialogue, raw, raunchy, and many times unrestrained language, perhaps expected of the fourteen-year-old (these days). Not so much with the narrator, although an albeit mature inexperienced woman suddenly plunged into this nightmare scenario, may end up parroting the child’s language. (I do remember trying to pick my battles too.) Still, I had to applaud the many positive and creative ways she carefully handled the girl (and wished I’d been that wise). Difficult enough to be a mother, let alone stepping into shoes this size required.
These characters are so real, so engaging. I loved Cynthia’s sister, Angela. Perfect name for the character even if you did have to “wait for it.” A unique plot, compelling and flawed characters, a believable family drama, and just enough hope to keep the pages flipping. Totally recommended.
Wit and humor combine in this classic novel. Women are very complicated creatures and Nancy Roman has written a tale most men would do well to read! Sometimes it is better to run from obsession than grasp beauty with many problems. Nancy is among my favorites and a great writer. CE Williams 5/5 stars
Rosepoint Publishing: Four point Five of Five Stars
The Author: Nancy Roman grew up in Bristol Connecticut, attending local schools and graduating from the University of Connecticut, an English major with an MBA.
Her essay, “My Perfect Mess,” recounting her sweet experience with her sixth-grade teacher was included in Marlo Thomas’ best-selling collection, THE RIGHT WORDS AT THE RIGHT TIME, VOLUME II.
Nancy writes weekly about aging, kindness, and living a happy life on her popular blog, “Not Quite Old” (http://notquiteold.com).
Her first novel, JUST WHAT I ALWAYS WANTED, is a poignant story of adoption, told with humor and honesty.
Nancy’s recent release is LUCINDA’S SOLUTION, a love story of changing mores and the role of women after World War I.
Roman lives in Litchfield Connecticut with her husband, four mysterious cats, and one disobedient but adorable dog.
[Note: You might also catch her blog to view her original watercolors, one of which is her adorable dog.]
©2019 V Williams