The women of Freesia Court are convinced that there is nothing good coffee, delectable desserts, and a strong shoulder can’t fix. Laughter is the glue that holds them together—the foundation of a book group they call AHEB (Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons), an unofficial “club” that becomes much more. It becomes a lifeline. Holding on through forty eventful years, there’s Faith, a lonely mother of twins who harbors a terrible secret that has condemned her to living a lie; big, beautiful Audrey, the resident sex queen who knows that with good posture and an attitude you can get away with anything; Merit, the shy doctor’s wife with the face of an angel and the private hell of an abusive husband; Kari, a wise woman with a wonderful laugh who knows the greatest gifts appear after life’s fiercest storms; and finally, Slip, a tiny spitfire of a woman who isn’t afraid to look trouble straight in the eye.
This stalwart group of friends depicts a special slice of American life, of stay-at-home days and new careers, of children and grandchildren, of bold beginnings and second chances, in which the power of forgiveness, understanding, and the perfectly timed giggle fit is the CPR that mends broken hearts and shattered dreams.
Paperback, 512 pages
Published March 29th 2005 by Random House Publishing Group (first published January 1st 2003)
ISBN 0345475690 (ISBN13: 9780345475695)
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A Fuller Brush salesman had the unfortunate task of trying to sell his wares to the women of Freesia Court during the fifth day of a March cold snap.This is the story of five women who form a book club, following the women over decades of friendship.
Faith is married to husband Wade, and with twins- a girl and a boy. Faith is grounded and sensible, but full of secrets and living a lie (or series of lies).
Audrey and husband Paul appear to have the perfect life. With two boys and an attentive husband, Audrey thinks that having a great sex life equates a good marriage. Later she becomes a person of more depth.
Merit is the beautiful daughter of a Lutheran minister. Most people don't see beyond her beauty, and assume that there is nothing more to her. But there is a lot going on in her life and with her husband Eric.
Slip is a fiery, fearless, opinionated activist, and her husband Jerry stands by her in everything.
Kari is a widow, her husband Bjorn having died in his forties, before they had any children. She is a seamstress, home designer and a favorite of her nieces and nephews. There is something stabilizing and grounded about Kari.
There’s something about Kari that makes me feel calm-- after listening to her I feel like I’ve drunk a warm glass of milk. (p. 48)This story is character-driven, with full, well-fleshed out characters. But that is not to say that the plot plays second-fiddle. This story is equally plot and character driven, and it covers the gamut. Childhood heartbreak, unhappy marriages, domestic abuse, substance abuse, the horrors of war, the pain and joys of parenthood. It has it all.
My biggest issue was with Faith's letters. Faith writes regular letters to her deceased mother throughout the book, and these letters became my least favorite part of the story. Accusatory, bitter, morose, they dwell on the past, and Faith doesn't seem to appreciate how lucky she is to have what she has.
You never know what little tidbits of knowledge you'll pick up at a book club discussion. I can't remember of which topic from the book we were discussing, but one woman said that someone she knew had five miscarriages. The doctor told her to drink a beer every day with the next pregnancy, as it suppresses contractions, and she carried that baby to term!
Someone in the book club also pointed out that more time was given to developing the gay couple than in addressing the divorce of one of the characters, and how she got the strength to follow through with it. I have to say that I agree. The gay couple weren't really integral to the story and never really tied in with the storyline. They felt "superfluous", as if they were the "token gay couple" in the story. So one of my main complaints with the book is that too much time was spent on inconsequential things and people that didn't really add to the story.
But I did enjoy the writing, and some of the stories the characters would tell. At one point, one of the characters relayed a discussion with a professor, and I enjoyed the analogy...
“...And then there’s Professor Emory-- he teaches the theology class I’m taking at night school-- because one day he compared religions to a baseball team, with Catholicism as the catcher, crouched down and willing to take the most punishment, giving secret signals; Baptists as the umpires, always judging who’d erred; Buddhism as the pinch hitter, who would hit a home run if he can just get up to bat, but if he only gets to warm the bench, that’s fine too...” (p. 117)My final word: I enjoyed this book. Our book club had mixed responses to it. Many gave it about a C. I gave it a B+. It had both serious moments and humorous moments, allowing you to watch the development of the character's lives over decades. I would recommend this one.
My Rating: 8 out of 10