by Jennifer Greene, contemporary (2002)
Avon, $6.99, ISBN 0-380-81972-4
There is so much to love this book for. This book is a small-town Michigan homespun apple pie come-Kinkadians-come thing, but at the same time it deals with issues like abortions, teen pregnancy, and other issues rarely found in this subgenre, and tackle them well it does. Unfortunately, there are enough flaws to almost jettison this worthy effort from long-time series author Jennifer Greene. Maybe the years at the Ontario concentration camps haven't destroyed all vestiges of these author-slaves' creativity yet.
Susan Sinclair is a city gal, and all is well in her world, until her daughter Rebecca "Becca" calls her. Susan's mother Lydia has gone nympho. Later, Susan will realize that Becca is pregnant. Ouch. To deal with these matters, she will have to talk to Becca's father, Jon Laker. Jon and Susan never married, and Becca was actually an accident, but it's obvious that there are a lot of issues still unresolved between them. Lots of problems, people, lots of 'em.
There are some fine points in this story. The issues, as I've mentioned above, are hard-hitting relevant ones that make this story even more effective. It doesn't offer contrived formulaic cuteness when dealing with relationships and heartbreaks - you really have to work for a happy ending, and I like that. Also, there is a welcome absence of poverty-ridden heroines, secret baby panacea, must-have-sex biological-clock-ticking nonsense, and other rubbish stinking up the smalltown romance subgenre. Susan is an intelligent woman without going psychotically emotional, while Jon listens at crucial times.
But at the same time, a lot of things don't work as well. Lydia's second shot at life is played for laughs, and her adventures are over the top even for me. Selling heirlooms and having sex? Fine. But when she turns into a self-absorbed woman who doesn't seem to care that her daughter and granddaughter are having problems, she loses me there. When she attempts to meddle for all the wrong reasons, I'm lost even more. Likewise, Becca, this is no time to do a Parent Trap - and you are in your twenties, not late teens, so get over your parent issues, young lady.
I'm also rather exasperated by how slow these people take to resolve their problems. Conversations happen, but when the author wants to stall for time (and more pages), people stop listening and just keep interrupting the other person. They do talk, but it's a longer time to get there than I'd have liked.
Still, whatever its flaws, The Woman Most Likely To... is a welcome read. It tries, and it succeeds in a way, to present a drama that deals with relationships without resorting to the usual poverty-ridden-pregnant-virgin bag of stale Harlequin American tricks. The people in here change, they grow up (not necessarily wiser or prettier, but for the better), and they have epiphany that make them as close to being real as can be.
Incidentally, yes, the title comes from Susan's being voted The Girl Most Likely To Succeed in high school. You were expecting something else?
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