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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Book Review - Here Home Hope

Kelly Johnson is married to a wonderful man and has two amazing teenage sons.  Yet she feels unfulfilled.  After a breast cancer scare and the emotional uncertainty that entails, Kelly decides to change her life.  Written on Post-It notes and stuck where ever she might need the inspiration, Kelly starts her list of "Things 2 Change," and thereby begins a personal journey that takes her from depression to life affirmation, deepens her friendships, enriches her marriage, and enables Kelly to find her passion and turn it into a viable business.  Fans of Nicholas Sparks will enjoy this positive, pro-women novel about turning a mid-life crisis into a life-affirming celebration.

Fans of Nicholas Sparks and his writing/storytelling style should probably stop reading now.

Did that clear the room?  Perhaps I wasn't being fair to Nicholas Sparks.

When I agreed to provide an honest review for Here Home Hope, I did not anticipate that I would feel such guilt over it!  I wanted to like this book, I really did.  I even contemplated sugar-coating my review to save feelings.  But I cannot do that.  This is my blog, and honesty is important to me.

When I was in college, one of our writing professors gave this sage advice: to effectively share a story, you must show the action, not tell it.  Kaira Rouda does not do that.  In fact she tells the story to the point that all of the action takes place off-scene.  The protagonist just tells you about it later.

This book is emotionally distancing, which is a surprise, given plot lines that could have come straight from Desperate Houswives!  Breast cancer fears, anorexia, extra-marital affairs, catty-neighbors, mid-life crises, depression; it is all there.  And all strangely boring.

The main character, Kelly Johnson, realizes her life has to change.  Up until the start of the book, her life has focused solely on her perfect, lawyer husband, her million-dollar home, and her two, idealized, teenage sons.  But Kelly is unfulfilled. So she starts to take a good, hard look at her life, and then goes to see a psychologist.  Who immediately puts her on antidepressants.

Apparently she also put the book on antidepressants because from that point forward, Kelly rarely emotes.  In fact a few little pills and she just floats through the rest of her personal conflicts until the book closes.  Further, whenever Kelly has a personal need, like when she starts her business, or when she has to quickly care for her friend's anorexic teen, she already has an expert on speed dial.  It is too convenient.  It may be that life is actually like that for the oh-so-very rich and connected; I remain unconvinced.  In real life your formerly anorexic BFF who you dumped in her time of need would not take your call, let alone drop everything and provide constant, perfect, free therapy to the aforementioned anorexic teen.  All while nursing a baby.  She might even tell you to stuff it; possibly with a referral to a licensed professional.

But the real problem with this book is its lack of focus.  Is this a book about mid-life crisis?  Is it a grown-up version of those teen issues novels?  Is this a book about how hateful or supportive women can be towards each other?  Or is it a book on what steps women should take to start their own businesses?

I wish it could be all of the above, but I think it is the latter.  Why?  Because that is when the book seems easiest to read; boring, but easy.  And that is when the book provides advice you could follow.  Not surprisingly, this is where Kaira Rouda shows her expertise.  As the author of Real You Incorporated: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs, Rouda clearly has a passion for female businesses.  (I think she even sites her own book as a source that the fictional Kelly uses on her path to entrepreneurship.  Classy!)  And while that is wonderful for a non-fiction, self-help book, it doesn't fly for fiction.

Here Home Hope has a massive publicity machine behind it, with a blog tour (of which this review was supposed to be part), a Facebook page, and even a reader's guide in the back.  I will not be surprised to hear buzz about the book.  But for me, I could never discuss this book in a book club.  It lacks depth and cohesion, climax, and even good dialog.  It is a soft-touch.  Here Home Hope tells, it doesn't show.

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