SWEET RUIN by Cathi Hanauer

First, a final reminder about the first EDIWTB online book club. Hyperion has generously agreed to send review copies of A Middle Place, which I wrote about here, to anyone who’d like to read it.  A few weeks after we’ve all received the book, I’ll post a review of it here, and those who have read it will hopefully keep the conversation going in the comments.  I have already submitted a bunch of names to Hyperion, and will send along any more that I receive at [email protected] in the next day or two. If the book club goes well, I’d like to make it a regular feature – though in the future I will hopefully have more control over picking the book. I appreciate Hyperion’s generous offer, and I hope that other publishers will agree to provide review copies, but I’d also like to choose the books rather than have them determined by which books are sent to me. (Anyone who has been in a book club with me knows that I am a control freak when it comes to picking books!)

Second, I finished a book today that I really liked. If yu’re a guy, you can probably stop reading right here (I know there are some of you out there who are sick of my female protagonists).  Sweet Ruin, by Cathi Hanauer, is a novel about Elayna, a suburban mom in her mid 30s living in a New Jersey suburb outside New York City. She has a 6-year old daughter and also lost a son a few days after he was born. The book opens 2 years after her son’s death, as she is slowly emerging from her fog of grief.  It explores her flawed marriage, her grief and depression, her relationship with her difficult father, her experience as a mother to her daughter Hazel, suburban parenting, and her affair with Kevin, a young man across the street who falls in love with her.

This book was difficult to put down. I love Hanauer’s writing. Her little observations about motherhood and marriage – wow. Familiar territory. It’s not a perfect book – I think that Elayna’s relationship with Kevin isn’t that convincing in the end. But I like that her characters aren’t painted in black and white. No one’s a villain. Hanauer successfully makes most of her characters sympathetic, even when they are fighting with or hurting each other. This is real life in all its messy, unpredictable, ever-changing beauty.

I just read a review of Sweet Ruin at the Mommy Writer Blog. Check it out – I heartily agree with her. This is a highly enjoyable book that’s several steps above chick lit.

I’d love to hear from others who have read this book.