Tag Archives: sarah pekkanen

THE WIFE BETWEEN US by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen is what I call a popcorn novel – a psychological thriller that keeps you reading but doesn’t necessarily leave much behind when you finish. It’s about a woman named Vanessa who has recently divorced her husband Richard and is now stalking his fiancee (her “replacement”). It appears that Vanessa – short on money, living with her aunt in Manhattan – is the typical cast-off first wife who wants her rich husband and her old life in Westchester back, while her husband heads toward the aisle with a younger version of herself.

But, as you discover as you read The Wife Between Us, little is as it seems.

It is very difficult to review this book without giving too much away, so I will keep this short. There are a lot of twists and turns that kept me reading. At first Vanessa seems sad and pathetic, but then you start to realize that there is more to her than a spurned woman. And then things get interesting.

The Wife Between Us is a tense thriller that keeps the pages turning and the reader interested. I put it a notch above the typical popcorn novel because of the twists and surprises, and also because it ends up being a pretty sympathetic portrayal of a woman who has faced challenges in her life. But in the end, it’s a thriller. If you’re in the mood for that kind of book, I recommend picking it up.

 

SKIPPING A BEAT by Sarah Pekkanen


Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen has an interesting premise: Michael, a man in his 30s who has made millions of dollars after starting his own company, survives a heart attack and realizes that he has been focused on the wrong things in life. He decides to give away all of his vast estate, without conferring with or getting approval from his wife, Julie, who was his high school sweetheart growing up in modest circumstances in West Virginia. Julie, who has gotten used to living the good life in Washington, DC, has to decide whether to stay with Michael or try to fight part of his estate.

This could have been a pretty good story. What do you do when your spouse unilaterally changes your way of life? Does having a lot of money corrupt a marriage? Julie and Michael were basically estranged at the time of his heart attack. How does a couple find their way back to each other after years of distance and resentment?

Unfortunately, Skipping a Beat didn’t live up to its potential. Ultimately, it was an implausible story with a really weak ending. I had a hard time getting a good read on Julie, the narrator. While she said that she never felt comfortable in her moneyed life and hadn’t become the rich woman inside that her trappings would suggest, she was also devastated at the thought of losing it all. She was so passive in her marriage – clueless about Michael’s company, unassertive in her desires – that I had a hard time feeling sorry for her predicament. Michael’s 180 degree transformation after the heart attack – sudden and total – also seemed unrealistic to me. Everything was really simplified here – from Michael selling off his assets to the resolution of lawsuits.

The ending – WARNING, SPOILERS AHEAD – was cliched and way too Hollywood for me. It read like a screenplay for a feel-good tearjerker and I think it undermined the emotional potential of the book.

Skipping a Beat was set in DC, which I enjoyed. I was distracted, though, by a fair amount of name-dropping and outdated details. Lots of references to things like ‘The Tyra Banks Show’, ‘Dateline’, Issey Mikaye, and iPods. Julie and Michael were in their 30s but Pekkanen made them seem like they were in their 60s.

I mostly listened to Skipping a Beat on audio. The narrator, Madeleine Maby, was pretty good. She conveyed the earnest side of Julie, as well as her anger and confusion at what was going on around her. My issues with the book were separate from the narration, which was compelling.

Depressing-o-Meter: 5 out of 10. (Which means that this book didn’t really succeed for me, because I found it less poignant than it was likely supposed to be.)

THE OPPOSITE OF ME By Sarah Pekkanen

I finished The Opposite of Me by Sarah Pekkanen today. It's a fun, light read, and while it's not perfect, I am glad I read it.


Pekkanen The Opposite of Me
is about Lindsay, a 29 year-old advertising executive in New York City on the verge of a big promotion. When it doesn't come through, she is so bewildered and disappointed that she gets drunk and is caught in a compromising position by one of her managers. She loses her job and returns home to her parents' home in Maryland, where she falls back into her childhood role of being the "smart sister", compared to her twin sister Alex, the "beautiful sister".

The Opposite of Me is really about Lindsay's struggle for identity when she loses what once distinguished her from her sister: her ambition and her professional success. Without her comfortable workaholic life to shield her from the painful realities of her adulthood (her emotional distance from her twin sister, her feelings of inadequacy, and her fundamental loneliness), Lindsay is left in a vulnerable position. She tries to hide her new reality from her parents and sister, but is ultimately forced to reveal her hand when Alex faces her own obstacles and reveals her own doubts and insecurities.

I don't want to give away more than that. Pekkanen's style is easy and very readable. There are too many cliches in the book, and her narration of Lindsay's emotions and thoughts is at times repetitive and a bit too explicit, but I still enjoyed this book. There were some plot twists I didn't see coming, and I liked Lindsay and felt myself rooting for her. She's not perfect, but Pekkanen makes her sympathetic.

I have fraternal girl twins, and I am always interested in the relationship between twin sisters, and The Opposite of Me didn't disappoint in this area either. Lindsay and Alex's relationship takes some turns in the book that give it more dimension and complication than I had expected at first.

Pekkanen also nicely captured what it's like to be 29 and have multiple paths ahead of you. How do you know who you are at that time of your life, when you're making decisions with far-reaching consequences that may require a better understanding of yourself than you actually possess? Lindsay makes some decisions at the end of the book that would have seemed beyond unlikely at the beginning, but which seem natural by the end. 

Finally, I love that Pekkanen is born and bred in the DC area, like me, and I greatly enjoyed the DC references spread throughout the book. 

In all, this is a fun and satisfying read.