Saturday, September 30, 2006

In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner

In Her Shoes chronicles the experiences of two sisters, Maggie and Rose, who were brought closer together by the death of their manic-depressive mother when they were young. Their closeness doesn't stop them from being in almost constant conflict, though -- they are sisters, after all. Rose is the smart and successful sister, the one who went to Princeton and is now a lawyer. Maggie tries to fight her feeling of inferiority by being as pretty and sexy as possible, but even she can't escape the fact that her life is a mess, a series of failed relationships and boring retail jobs that she quit after just a few days. Rose resents the way she always has to bail Maggie out of one mess or another, the way Maggie takes whatever she wants from everyone and never seems to understand the need to make a decent living and pay her own way. Maggie, on the other hand, wishes that Rose would just get off her case and try to understand how her lifelong struggle with dyslexia has made everything she tries to do so much more difficult.

Meanwhile, their maternal grandmother, Ella, is still wounded from the way her son-in-law angrily cut her out of Maggie and Rose's lives after her daughter's death. She lives alone in a Florida retirement community, filling her days with volunteer work and avoiding close friendships so she'll never have to revisit the painful memories of her lost family.

I know these women sound like a pretty hopeless trio, but they are all likeable characters who have some personal growth to go through and closer bonds to forge with one another. As the title suggests, each of them needs to spend some time trying to look at life from the other's point of view; as an added chicklit bonus, they all wear the same size shoe so lots of shoe-borrowing symbolism comes into play during the course of the novel.

And so as I complete my blitz through Jennifer Weiner's back catalogue, the question that haunts me is - what the HECK happened with Goodnight Nobody? My conclusion: Weiner should stick to chicklit and stay away from further cross-genre experiments.

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