Sunday, December 27, 2009

Lisa Jewell: Why I Love Her

In the shower, I was reflecting on my promised "Year End Review" post. I didn't want a mere list of the ones I really liked and disliked, so I was trying to make up categories. Funniest. Most engrossing. Stuff like that. For my best new-to-me author, I decided it had to be Lisa Jewell, and that got me thinking as to why.

My first encounter with Lisa Jewell was One-Hit Wonder, many years ago. I came across another one of her books earlier this year, her new one, in fact, and started off reading the rest of them.

They're not terribly original in plot. Many of them are a variation on the standard twisted romance that people like Meg Ryan and Julia Roberts have built film careers on. But the characters are stand-outs. They're always interesting people, with a strong point of view. You root for them, you get to know them, you ultimately rejoice in seeing them walk happily off into the sunset of their own making.

But another reason I really like Lisa Jewell is that her characters are in sync with me, and the point in my life that I'm at. I'm too old to relate to the young women in The Devil Wears Prada and their ilk. But I'm not really interested yet in reading books about women having families and all settled down. That's not me yet, either. I always thought it would be. It is a lot of my Facebook friends. Whenever I log on, I see tons of status updates about people's babies and home renovation projects. Over the summer, one woman that I went to high school with posted pictures of an obviously professionally landscaped garden at her home. I'm still renting, still figuring out what I want.

Jewell's characters are, too. Maybe, like Siobhan of Ralph's Party, their promising twenties have fizzled somewhat: she was laid off from her job at a fashion college and never found another one, unsure of what sort of work she might be suited for, unable by biology to simply become a stay-at-home mom, and unclear as to what was next for her. Or maybe, like Joy and Vince of their self-titled novel or Tony of Friend of the Family, they have whole unsuccessful lives behind them already. Perhaps, like Dig and Deen of Thirtynothing, Toby of Roomates Wanted, or Sean of Friend of the Family, they're just merely slower bloomers, still living the same lifestyle they led right out of college except maybe with a tad more money.

But still, it's neat to see them undertake their journeys towards the rest of their lives. It's nice to get the message that people don't magically "settle" at a certain age, and that there's nothing necessarily wrong with you if you don't have it figured out yet when all of your friends are married with kids, homes and careers. It's nice to know that there are other people out there wrestling with the questions of who they are and how much of the stereotypical white-picket-fencce lifestyle they want for themselves, if any. Even if those people are fictional.