REVIEW: LOSING ME, BY SUE MARGOLIS

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From the very first pages, I was engaged with the MC Barbara Stirling, a woman approaching her 60s, satisfied with her teaching job, a bit less satisfied with her marriage…a woman with good friends and enough money to get along.

Just as she grew more involved with one of her more troubled students, the axe fell. Barbara was being made “redundant.” Suddenly, all the other aspects of her life seem more troubling, and her husband’s weeks and months away, making documentaries, begin to feel like abandonment.

These feelings remind her of her childhood and her emotionally unavailable parents. Rose, her mother, is in her eighties, and still seems to be demanding and ungiving.

A series of panic attacks bring these long-ago issues to the forefront…and Barbara must look into her soul to confront them. What will she do now? How can she change her marriage? What, if anything, can she do about her relationship with her mother?

Barbara’s narrative was engrossing, and I could relate to some of her issues. I enjoyed the dialogue and her thoughts about her grown children: Ben, who is unemployed, and still living at home; and Jess, married to Matt and the mother of two, who has embraced a “hippie” lifestyle that includes some questionable practices. Some of these moments were hilarious, and while I empathized with Barbara—who doesn’t want to knock some sense into their adult children?—I also could relate to the children wanting to do things their way.

Soul searching and some attitudinal changes made Losing Me a thoroughly compelling read. Set in and near London, I felt as though I were right there, along with the characters, several of whom were like people I wanted to know. I will be searching for more books from this author. 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: AFTER I DO, BY TAYLOR JENKINS REID

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After eleven years together, Ryan and Lauren have reached the breaking point. The slightest little habit or action of the other person is so irritating that they each say that they are no longer in love. And in frustration, they make a startling decision. They will take a year apart, with no contact: no phone calls, no texts, and no e-mails. Then they will get together and reassess.

After I Do is a heart-rending story of what happens after the love and romance have died. Is there a way to ignite the passion? Can they discover what to do in the absence of these feelings? How will they find the special ingredient that has been missing?

In a somewhat underhanded attempt to rediscover who her husband is, Lauren takes drastic action. But she does find answers…and she arrives at some realizations.

It helps that she has close friends and a great family. I loved how each family member felt real, and the ways in which they communicated and supported each other were so loving: from Grandma Lois, who pointed Lauren in an interesting direction, to younger brother Charlie, who inspires Lauren with the surprising choices he makes. Sister Rachel, who offers support, but who also calls Lauren on her mistakes, feels just like the kind of sibling one needs.

A book I recommend for all who enjoy stories about relationships and family. 5 stars.