This month's novel takes care of one of the two debut authors that I have to read to complete the Challenge. I was originally concerned with trying to find a debut author because it could end up being quite tricky. Luckily, Samantha over at Chick Lit Plus has these handy blog posts that give us ideas for this part of the Challenge. I was reading the first of these posts when I came across Playdate and was very happy. Why? you ask? Because I had received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher at my old bookstore job. Score!
I am finding something interesting with the books I'm choosing for the Challenge...I'm not totally overwhelmed by them, and I'm not really sure why. I wonder if it's maybe because I'm analyzing them a bit more in preparation of writing reviews or they just aren't winners. I'm not saying that I dislike any of them and I would still recommend them, but they're not my favourites. With Playdate I think it was the main story that I just couldn't relate with. Here's the synopsis from Chapters:
Inside their picture-perfect homes, the residents of this quiet California suburb are not at all what they seem.I can usually relate somehow to most characters, but I just couldn't quite find the link with Lance, Darlene, Wren, and Alec. I think part of the reason was that I went in assuming that Darlene was cold hearted and didn't care one single iota for her family. That's not the case. After just 30 some odd pages, what you thought you had figured out about a character has completely changed.
Lance is a former weatherman, now a buff yogi, stay-athome dad, and manager of his daughter's Girl Scout troop's cookie distribution. Belle is his precocious and quick-witted daughter. Darlene is a classic Type A work-a-holic, she has little time or patience for the needs of her husband and daughter
And just down the street are Alec and Wren. Alec, a womanizing businessman, is also the financial backer-and sometimes more-behind Darlene's burgeoning empire. Meanwhile, Wren is a doting mother and talented yogi, ready to lay down the mat for a quick session with Lance.
As looming Santa Ana winds threaten to turn brushfires into catastrophe; Playdate proves that relationships are complicated and the bonds between families, spouses and children are never quite what they seem. What happens next door, beyond the hedges, in the romper room and executive office-it's all as combustible as a quick brushfire on a windy day.
One part that I didn't quite get was the focus on the Santa Ana winds. I suppose Adams was trying to make it seem like another character but it was lost on me. It provided a way for Belle to grow at the end of the novel, but other than that I just saw it as a way for Lance to talk about his former profession as a weatherman. Also, whenever I hear "Santa Ana" the scene in The Holiday with Kate Winslet and Jack Black pops into my head. That scene is much sweeter than the "firenados" in Playdate. But I suppose that's just me :)
Lance and Darlene have uprooted their daughter, Belle, and their lives and moved to a new city to follow Darlene's dream. Between this and the fact that the adults all seem so completely self absorbed, I really felt sorry for Belle. I can imagine that it is hard to be the new kid and worry about your parents' marriage. Plus, she had to wear her Girl Scouts uniform to school! Talk about squashing individuality.
I am finding it very difficult to say why I didn't love this novel without giving anything away. So. Let me just say that there are certain life choices characters make in some books that I just can't get behind, especially if they don't seem to have a good reason. There was also one character who really grated on my nerves and who I thought would raise bloody hell once she found out one of the dirty little secrets. I will say I was disappointed in that, though I'm not sure why.
I did really like one of the underlying themes of the novel - the role of the stay at home dad. This novel examined the stigma attached to being a "househusband" which I found interesting. I hadn't really thought too much about stay at home dads and what they must have to deal with everyday from their male peers. The question Lance kept getting asked was, "So, what do you do all day?" My mom stayed home with my sister and I until I was in grade eight and I loved it. Probably not as much at the time, but I can look back and I really appreciate what she did for us and the fact that she was always there for us.
I'm sure this review seems like a real downer. No, I didn't love the book. Do I feel like I wasted my time reading it? No. Would I recommend it? Sure, but not to buy. If it happens to turn up at your library or in a box full of free books, go for it. I can acknowledge the fact that I'm not one to love this kind of storyline (even Emily Giffin's latest book, Heart of the Matter gave me trouble and I LOVE her) and that others will. I think if I come across Adams' next book I will pick it up, and I think that says something.
Has anyone else read this book? Let me know what you thought if you have. Are there any particular plot lines that you just do not enjoy reading? Until next time...happy reading. Oh, and Happy St. Patrick's Day! :)