Saturday, August 22, 2009

Another Jewell...with a touch of the mystic

In Friend of the Family, Lisa Jewell delivers more of what keeps me coming back: unique characters, realistic conflicts, and the ultimate happy resolution. This time, as the title of the post implies, she adds a touch of the mystic into the mix.

Here's the rundown: three brothers, Tony, Sean and Ned, shared the perfect upbringing with the perfect parents. Now all in their late 20s and early 30s, though, it seems that their childhood happiness didn't prepare them well for the adult world, and all three are facing a crossroads in their lives.

Tony, the eldest, is a divorced workaholic who's also a bit unsure of where his life is headed. He's with an absolutely wonderful woman that he doesn't love. In the meantime, he's also fallen in love with another woman -- who happens to be Sean's girlfriend. Which brings us to Sean's own dilemma. His first novel hit gold and won every award. Now he's under major pressure to deliver for his second novel. But he's never been in love like this before, with the perfect woman, and the perfect relationship -- until she discovers she's pregnant.

Ned has recently returned from a three-year Australian adventure, leaving behind a girlfriend who's gone slightly crazy, but dogged by his unwillingness to build any sort of settled career. The best he can offer for experience is a few weeks here and there tending bar, opening mail, renting surfboards, things of that nature. His Australian adventure is over and the life he'd left behind in Britain is gone.

Even his own bedroom is gone, but not made over into a sewing room or unrecognizable guest room. Not even merely piled rug to rafters with old clothing and books as mine is. No, much worse -- rented out to an odd young man named Gervase. The boys' mother met him at the pub where she sings and offered him the room. Naturally, this makes the boys quite concerned, especially as Gervase has no discernable form of employment and is even included in family dinners. But, as it turns out, Gervase has something else to offer. Though the boys go out of their way to avoid him, he manages to cop enough alone time with each to use his mystical powers to get to the root of their problems and help them see the solutions to them.

And of course, as most of Jewell's books do, this one has a satisfying ending. Each boy gets out of his rut and on with his life. Each finds happiness, or at least begins to walk the path towards it. It's weird. There are many more "serious" authors whose work begins to wear on me the more I read. I notice too many commonalities among the stories and they all start to blur together and seem to be less the product of a fertile imagination than simple repackaged autobiography. Jewell's books always seem refreshingly original to me, every time.