Blooming All Over
Blooming All Over is the follow-up novel to Love in Bloom’s, a book I’d heard positive things about, both from AAR staff and from friends. I regret to say that I did not find the Bloom family as charming or as funny as they apparently did.
Blooming All Over is about the complications the various Bloom members face in falling in love. Sisters Julia and Susie are still in love with Ron Joffe and Casey Gordon (respectively), but they find that love doesn’t solve everything. Julia’s leadership of the Bloom’s store is interrupted often by the travails of planning the perfect Jewish wedding. And Susie has the opposite problem – she doesn’t want to settle down at all. When Casey proposes that they move in together, she backs off from their relationship entirely. She’s not one for picket fences and wifely responsibility. Adam Bloom has graduated college and is home for the summer. His now long-distance relationship with the intense Tash is waning in the face of a more immediate love. And their mother Sondra is throwing another wrench into the wedding plans by getting infatuated with Ron Joffe’s dad. What’s blooming at Bloom’s is trouble!
If the above summary didn’t clarify, this book is not a romance. It’s a family story full of smaller stories of people interacting with each other. It reads something like Marilyn Pappano’s Bethlehem books or Robin Carr’s more recent novels. The Bloom family is rather tightly knit, sexually liberal (at least the younger generation is), and well educated. They identify strongly with their Jewish heritage, although they are not observant. Arnold includes quite a bit of detail about life in New York City and kosher food. Conversations are sprinkled heavily with Yiddish-isms (almost all of which went right over my head). Readers who relish books about people who live in the Big City and love the lifestyle would probably really enjoy this book. The Blooms are modern, urban, and strongly opinionated people.
They are also a bunch of indecisive ditherers, at least in this book. Julia spends the whole novel worrying about where to hold her wedding reception. Her mother Sondra wants to have it at the Plaza. Julia wants to have Bloom’s cater it, but most places do their own catering. So she tries to convince Grandma Ida to host it in her apartment, but no one likes this idea. Crises ensue. Julia calls Ron each and every time to get his advice.
This is not the stuff of high drama, people. Honestly, I could not identify with this, even though I planned my own wedding and there was some back-and- forth. Or perhaps it would be more honest to say I could identify, but I didn’t care. Weddings tend to make women turn into Bridezilla, and it was less than thrilling watch Julia become consumed with these mundane decisions and worry about them more than what was going on with Susie.
Although it’s only fair to say that Susie’s problems are of her own making. She loves Casey, but doesn’t want to commit to him in a tangible way. She acknowledges he’s a great guy, really a wonderful catch, but she’d rather dink around doing nothing much than put her life in any kind of order. When it appears that her inability to commit to him has cost her his love, she goes into a depression. Okay, perhaps it’s mean, but it does inspire one to comment that we all must lie in beds of our own making. And the solution to this problem is achievable if you, Susie, would just stop acting like a stubborn mule and admit your feelings and, hey, compromise a little. That’s what relationships are – compromise.
Though the Blooms are presented as quirkily strong-minded, some of their opinions were a little hard to take. They had certain ideas about people – mostly about people not from New York City – that struck me as more than a little judgmental. They rag all over Adam’s girlfriend Tash who’s a mostly harmless “hippie tree-hugger.” Repeatedly they make mention of her braiding her leg hair. And they think of Midwesterners in the most stereotypical (and inaccurate) way. You get the feeling that the world kind of ends for them right there at the (western) New York border.
The book is populated with numerous other secondary characters, including Rick Bloom, the slacker cousin who cons Julia into letting him make an infomercial about Bloom’s for $25,000. And Grandma Ida makes her annoying presence known quite frequently, but Arnold doesn’t draw her with enough depth to seem more than one-dimensional.
Blooming All Over isn’t badly written, but the characters all could have used a swift kick in the pants and a good talking to. I usually enjoy character-driven novels, but, no matter how well written, for a character- driven novel to work you have to like the characters. And, unfortunately, I never warmed up to these folks.