Flip-Flopped is Jill Smolinski’s debut novel. She has promise, to be sure, and while I will look for her next effort, this one’s not worth the hardcover pricetag.
The plot can be summed up as follows: Keely Baker-Kekhui is going through a rough time. First of all, she lives in Hawaii, far away from her Detroit roots. Secondly, her job as a volcanologist is more than a little difficult because she has a horrible boss who’s stuck her in the finance department. A third problem involves her best friend Regatta’s wedding. And, to top it all off, her Hawaiian husband, Kam, has left her for another woman and is threatening to battle Keely for custody of their son.
Flip-Flopped is about how Keely handles this crazy period in her life, which, as it turns out, she doesn’t do all that well. On the one hand, Keely seems like a perfectly normal woman in her reaction to her divorce. She feels vengeful and angry at Kam, a completely understandable response under the circumstances. That said, however, Keely is very difficult to warm up to. Even though she’s a great mom to her son, she’s very self-centered and has a hard edge to her. Again, understandable, but not necessarily likable.
For some reason, Keely’s got this weird obsession with Davy Jones (from the Monkees). She meets Ian, a new man, while waiting in line at a fan event. (Actually, she meets Ian by stepping out of line and showing off her pitching ability in the dunking booth.) Ian knows Davy Jones, and that interests Keely. So does the fact that he’s nice looking and interested in her. Ian vows he would do almost anything for Keely, and then does, but in the process makes a huge mistake. Eventually, reconciliation with Kam emerges as a possibility, forcing Keely to examine what she really wants.
As far as secondary characters go, Regatta, Kam, and Keely’s lawyer, Morna, are my favorites. Regatta is a good friend to Keely, but also becomes self-centered once she gets engaged. Kam is every inch the laid-back Hawaiian surfer boy. He seems eternally relaxed and somewhat immature, and very controlled by his girlfriend. Morna is probably my favorite character in the book. She’s very Zen-like, which drives Keely nuts, but she’s a good friend and almost mother figure.
I wouldn’t call Flip-Flopped laugh-out-loud funny by any means, but Keely’s occasional sharp wit kept me interested. She also manages to get into some intriguing situations, one of which deals with erotic origami, and another involving Davy Jones. Still, there was just a little something missing here, and I never totally connected with Keely’s character.
If you’re looking for a quirky book, you might give this one a try when it comes out in paperback. As for me, I’ll wait and see if Smolinski does better the next time out.