MIRA, $6.99, ISBN 1-55166-884-X
Contemporary Romance, 2002
Pamela Morsi enters the contemporary market with Doing Good, but in a way, it tries to be the same old homely warm story she is well-known for. But this one is strangely subdued and transparently contrived for its own good.
Told in the first person, this is the story of Jane Lofton, a woman who seems to have it all: great career, rich hubby, a daughter who needs therapy – okay, that last one is not something to be proud of, maybe. Still, the cracks in her life are showing: hubby is having an affair with a lower-maintenance hairdresser, her daughter hates her, and she has no real friends.
When she gets involved in a car accident, she makes a vow: if she survives this, she’ll do good things. Hey, Jane, buy me a waterfront condo. Anyway, Jane survives, and now she has to do good. The man who saves her, Chester, is an old coot who will be her spiritual mentor – he has nothing better to do, I guess – as she embarks on a road to self-discovery. Jane first tries to be good by waving checks and cash all around. That’s good enough for me, but not to Chester, so Jane will really have to learn to be good. And do good.
I like Jane. I know there are readers who dislike her, but the point of this story is an unlikable woman’s journey to self-discovery, so I’m okay with how unlikable she can be. She does get her epiphany in the end, and even find love with a new guy, so that’s okay. But I just cannot stand the daughter, bratty and annoying to the point of tedious. Her husband is so wrong, he’s a very obvious plot device.
But all will be okay if this is a well-told story of self-discovery. But it’s not. The pace plods in the middle, for one, but more damaging is the lack of subtlety in the author’s rather heavy-handed treatment of Jane doing good. She comes close to preaching at places. Humor and quirkiness is needed to carry off stories like this without making me grit my teeth, but this one has neither. There is no question that Jane is wrong, not even any shade of grey, so it’s just me waiting for that anvil of righteousness to knock Jane in the head.
Doing Good is an awkward start to Ms Morsi’s plans for world domination. It’s not too whimsical or too catty, just somewhere in between. Not good, not bad, just so, so forgettable.