The Break-Up Book Club
The Breakup Book Club is a women’s fiction novel told from the viewpoint of four different narrators. A tale about losing love but finding yourself in the process, it’s a female -centric exploration of how, even if life throws us curve balls, we can still hit home runs.
On the surface, Judith’s life looks perfect. She has two beautiful children, a successful husband, a lovely home, plenty of spending money and an abundance of leisure time. But she’s not happy, and seeing her recently divorced, joyful friend brings home to her why – she and her husband are empty nesters with a passionless marriage. Judith is determined to make some changes and she’s going to start by having a serious conversation with her significant other about what needs revising in their lives. The conversation goes far worse than she expected and a few weeks later the only joy she has in her life is her book (and booze) club.
Jazmine once dreamed of being a tennis star, but a tragic car accident left her permanently injured. She’s risen to the top of her profession as a sports agent, but the hours are long, and it can be hard to balance being a single mother to a young girl and playing chaperone/lawyer/agent/mom to a bunch of needy pro-athletes. The only indulgence she has is her book club, where she can talk about good books, drink wine and relax.
Erin’s got just about everything she’s ever dreamed of – or at least she is on the cusp of having it all. She’s just weeks away from her wedding to her high school sweetheart, a pro-baseball player whose star is definitely on the rise. She majored in sports management in college and is thrilled to land a job at the agency the represents her fiancé – which just happens to be where Jazmine works. But a week before the wedding most of Erin’s dreams come crashing down around her when her fiancé gets cold feet and cancels the nuptials. She finds herself joining Jazmine’s book club in order to spend an evening doing something other than sobbing and otherwise indulging her badly bruised heart.
Sara’s husband Mitch has only been spending weekends at home as he acclimates to a new job in a different town by living in an apartment close to work during the week. The plan is for Sara to join him when her teaching job finishes at the end of the school year, at which point they will sell the house, and find a new place near his employment. In the meantime, she’s also taking care of her mother-in-law Dorothy who moved in with Sara while recovering from surgery and who isn’t exactly Sara’s biggest fan. Things change between the two, however, when they find themselves bonding over books after Sara impulsively invites Dorothy to join her at her book club.
On the surface these four ladies have little in common except the books they read, the wine they drink and the treats they eat one night per month, but that is all it takes for them to forge life changing friendships.
Wax is an experienced writer with a smooth prose style that is very readable. The pacing here is for what I call a ‘nightstand book’ – nothing so exciting happens that you spend time you should be working or sleeping reading, but the story is interesting enough that you are sufficiently engaged in the narrative to finish it. This is a multigenerational book, with Erin – at twenty-three – being the youngest and Judith – at fifty-five- being the oldest of our storytellers. The positive aspect of this is that we get to see how womens’ lives connect in lots of different ways as they age. I especially enjoyed the contrasting perspectives on the mother/child dynamic: Dorothy is in many ways as dependent at seventy-three on Sara as thirteen-year-old Maya is on Jazmine. Judith’s children are completely independent and living away from home but rely on her to stay/keep everything the same and to an extent, Erin is that way with her own parents – dependent on their stability as her own life becomes subject to the chaotic woes of young adulthood. I liked that the chroniclers varied ages enable us to see such situations from every angle.
But I struggled with some aspects of the tale, too. The story is incomplete – Jazmine has just started a new relationship, Judith has just made a big life decision, Erin is just getting settled into adulting and Sara and Dot are facing some big life changes – when the book ends. While I didn’t expect every narrative to close with everything tied up neatly, this conclusion was simply all loose ends. The issues discussed by each heroine throughout the novel are left almost entirely unresolved.
The character building, especially for Erin, felt incomplete. I understand that after some big life events all the ladies are in a state of flux, but I felt like I should have known them a bit better than I did when things ended. The secondary characters, especially Jazmine’s two love interests, are hardly developed at all, and the author doesn’t use any nuance – there are bad guys, good guys and misunderstood guys. With the possible exception of Erin’s ex, none of the male characters are just ordinary fellows who are a mix of all three.
There is a sub-plot here revolving around online dating which could have easily been lifted out of the book with zero effect on the storyline. It was mildly interesting at first but by the end was needlessly comical. The twist totally derailed anything this scenario added to the story.
I really wanted to like The Breakup Book Club a lot more than I did, but the factors I enjoyed couldn’t make up for the unresolved plot, silly twist in the subplot, and thin characterization. This was my first Wendy Wax novel and sadly, it will most likely be my last.
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