Life and Other Inconveniences by Kristan Higgins
Emma London never thought she had anything in common with her grandmother Genevieve London. The regal old woman came from wealthy and bluest-blood New England stock, but that didn’t protect her from life’s cruelest blows: the disappearance of Genevieve’s young son, followed by the premature death of her husband. But Genevieve rose from those ashes of grief and built a fashion empire that was respected the world over, even when it meant neglecting her other son.
When Emma’s own mother died, her father abandoned her on his mother’s doorstep. Genevieve took Emma in and reluctantly raised her–until Emma got pregnant her senior year of high school. Genevieve kicked her out with nothing but the clothes on her back…but Emma took with her the most important London possession: the strength not just to survive but to thrive. And indeed, Emma has built a wonderful life for herself and her teenage daughter, Riley.
So what is Emma to do when Genevieve does the one thing Emma never expected of her and, after not speaking to her for nearly two decades, calls and asks for help?
This book for some unfathomable reason is classified as comedic drama, among the others I’ve listed below. Humorous? No. Raw, emotional, dramatic, yes. The primary or main character here is Emma London, a 35-year-old single mother booted from Genevieve London’s (her grandmother) home when she divulged that she was (at 18) pregnant. She had been dumped on her grandmother’s doorstep after her father who lost his wife to suicide determined he could no longer care for her and her grandmother fed, clothed, and fostered her for ten years–sans love.
Fortunately, Emma could go to Pops and he would take her in, helping with the baby and providing a roof over her head while she struggled through school eventually becoming a therapist. The daughter she bore, Riley, became the light of her life, her ever-driving force, and she determined to be the best mother ever. She has, however, been left with a monumental school tab and now faced with her daughter looking at her last year of high school and college is struggling with the specter of her education as well.
After seventeen years with no communication from Genevieve, Emma suddenly gets a call that she is dying and would like to see Emma again and meet her great-granddaughter. Emma had an extremely contentious relationship with the extremely-rich Genevieve and normally would have nothing to do with her again, except that Genevieve sweetens the pot by offering to pay for Riley’s college expenses–if they’ll only stay for the summer at Sheerwater (pretentious mansion) so Genevieve won’t have to die alone.
Told in the POV of Emma, Genevieve, Riley, and Miller (a neighbor), it is Miller with whom I most invested. He is desperately sad, exhausted, and emotionally engaging. He lost his wife to childbirth and now the three-year-old rules with an iron fist. He’s beyond wit’s end. I also greatly appreciated a couple of the support characters, one being her grandfather, Pops, who decides he’ll accompany Emma and Riley in the move to the Long Island Sound in Connecticut in spite of his active contempt for Genevieve. Genevieve lost her beloved Sheppard, her oldest son, and a year later her husband; and she hasn’t gotten over it and is still bitter.
Genevieve is spiteful, nasty, loveless, and spares no one her thoughtless barbs. Emma disappointed her and she doesn’t miss a chance to say so. Riley, at sixteen, is almost syrupy sweet, too perfect to be a real sixteen year old and bounces in to charm Genevieve. There are many peripheral characters, including Emma’s dad, and Riley’s baby-daddy, Jason.
The author’s writing style hooks the reader almost immediately. It’s contemporary dialogue easily believable, sometimes profound and emotive. I found Emma on the neurotic side (perhaps that is understandable) but at times seemed to need therapy herself. I could almost buy the relationship between mother and daughter, they only have each other and Pops, but still, it slid over the top a few times. It seemed the most genuine is Miller and he is also the most sympathetic.
It’s a study in family dynamics, the little each member actually knows where the other is coming from, particularly separated by generations. Back story into each character at times lent another peek and allowed character growth, though first impressions usually remained about the strength (or lack thereof) of the person and twists or red herrings didn’t change where this storyline would venture. It is the how or why that keeps the reader gripped and turning pages. Why, why? Yeah…you know why. All along you knew why.
If you appreciate the fabric that holds families together, in spite of the warts, the secrets, tragedies, or perhaps because of the tragedies, you’ll appreciate this powerful narrative. While you may think it’s predictable, you’ll appreciate the artful way Higgins weaves her tale in and out as well as the satisfying conclusion, laying everything softly to rest–er…so to speak.
I received this beautiful print book from a Giveaway I won at Stephanie’s Novel Fiction with no expectation of a review. These are my own opinions and mostly, I loved it. You can connect with her also at #stephlvsbooks. Thank you again, Steph! I’ve become a Kristan Higgins fan and will look for additional books from the author.
Genre: Mother’s and Children’s Fiction, Contemporary Literature & Fiction
- ASIN: B07KDWT4PY
Rosepoint Publishing: Four of Five Stars
The Author: Kristan Higgins is the New York Times, USA TODAY, Wall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of 19 novels, which have been translated into more than two dozen languages and sold millions of copies worldwide. Her books have received dozens of awards and accolades, including starred reviews from Kirkus, The New York Journal of Books, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, People and Booklist. If you want to keep up with Kristan’s new releases and get a free short story, sign up for her mailing list at http://www.kristanhiggins.com.
Her books regularly appear on the lists for best novels of the year. Kristan is also a cohost of the Crappy Friends podcast, which discusses the often complex dynamics of female friendships, with her friend and fellow writer, Joss Dey.
The proud descendant of a butcher and a laundress, Kristan lives in Connecticut with her heroic firefighter husband. They own several badly behaved pets and are often visited by their entertaining and long-lashed children.
©2019 V Williams