About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

#79: Family Ties

#79: Family Ties, by Danielle Steel (New York: Delacorte Press, 2010).

Summary: "Annie Ferguson was a bright young Manhattan architect. Talented, beautiful, just starting out with her first job, new apartment and boyfriend, she had the world in the palm of her hand -- until a single phone call altered the course of her life forever. Overnight, she became the mother to her sister's three orphaned children, keeping a promise she never regretted making, even if it meant putting her own life indefinitely on hold.

"Now, at forty-two, as independent as ever, with a satisfying career and a family that means everything to her, Annie is comfortable being single and staying that way. She appears to have no time for anything else. With her nephew and nieces now young adults and confronting major challenges of their own, Annie is navigating a parent's difficult passage between lending them a hand and letting go, and suddenly facing an empty nest. The eldest, twenty-eight-year-old Liz, an overworked, struggling editor in a high-powered job at Vogue, has never allowed any man to come close enough to hurt her. Ted, at twenty-four a serious and hardworking law student, is captivated by a much older, much more experienced woman with children, who is leading him much further than he wants to go. And the youngest, twenty-one-year-old Katie -- impulsive, artistic, rebellious -- is an art student about to make a choice that will lead her to an entirely different world she is in no way prepared for but determined to embrace.

"Then, just when least expected, a chance encounter changes Annie's life yet again in the most unexpected direction of all."

Opening Lines: "Seth Adams left Annie Ferguson's West Village apartment on a sunny September afternoon. He was handsome, funny, intelligent, fun to be with, and they had been dating for two months."

My Take: We all have our guilty pleasures, and occasionally, this is one of mine. Utterly predictable, formulaic, and undemanding; I think it took me all of 2 hours to get through. All the plot lines hinted at on the dust jacket spool out pretty much as you'd expect; the one that's not totally obvious, Katie's thread, involves her falling in love with an Iranian-American classmate and tearing off, over Annie's and his parents' objections, to visit his aunt, uncle, and aging grandfather in Tehran.

I did find myself pondering, though, what it is about Steel's novels and others of the same ilk that strikes a chord with so many women. For me, it's partly a nostalgia thing; my mom went through a Steel phase in the early 1980s, and at the time, I felt horribly grown-up at being allowed to read some of the books myself. And while they'll never be great literature, they have gotten quite a bit better than the over-the-top, uber-rich-and-famous, never-felt-anything-like-this-before love stories on which Steel made her name. I guess the books serve much the same function as Hallmark made-for-TV movies; when real life has you overwhelmed or just plain bored, it's a nice distraction to spend an evening reading about someone whose troubles are vanquished in a few simple chapters.

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