The Single Mom's Second Chance
The Single Mom’s Second Chance takes on so many topics – grief, cancer, parenting, step-parenting, second-chance romance, brother’s widow – and, quite unfortunately, fails to deliver on any of them.
Widowed Roz Martin has been diagnosed with cervical cancer, and the only person she can think of to call to help her with her three children is her late husband’s brother Paul – who also happens to have been Roz’s teen love. That relationship ended when, as far as I could tell, Paul went to college and didn’t call Roz often enough, leading her to marry his brother instead? I dunno, Roz, I’d have talked to him first, but okay. Anyway, Paul drops everything to come to Sweet Briar to take care of Roz and her kids.
Let’s talk about underdevelopment. Roz has cervical cancer, and she has to undergo chemo before surgery. The author does give some detail how the chemo affects Roz, but when the surgery happens, things start unraveling. What’s included seems wrong: Roz dancing a day or so after coming home from the hospital; Roz insisting on doing bending chores and lifting a gallon of cider (not after surgery on your abdomen!); Roz told she’s no longer immunocompromised and can take care of flu-stricken Paul just a week after surgery and a month after chemo; Roz experiencing mid-chemo and post-surgery lust for Paul. What isn’t included feels even less accurate. The five-year survival rate for black women with cervical cancer is just 58%, and Roz’s doctor won’t conclusively tell Paul that he expects Roz to be okay, but nobody ever talks about what would happen to the kids if Roz died. Is Roz considering Paul for custody? Nobody knows!
Terrence – Roz’s late husband and Paul’s half-brother – is a gaping hole. The story of Paul and Roz’s breakup is underdeveloped, but the story of Roz and Terrence is nonexistent. Roz and Paul never talk about him. Roz’s kids never recall Daddy or connect Daddy’s death to Mommy’s life-threatening illness. Paul’s dad explicitly favored Terrence. This dad is not in the book, and Paul never makes the connection that Roz was the second person to choose Terrence over him. Terrence pretty much existed so Roz and Paul would eventually get together, which is a sad epitaph for anybody, even somebody fictional.
As for the writing… I can’t say that the dialogue was unrealistic, but sometimes it’s the job of the author to condense real life to avoid repetitiveness, especially if lots of the dialogue is spoken by kids. If the kids aren’t echoing each other or recapping what they just told Paul to Roz in the next room, Paul is having long mental rehashes of whatever happened between him and Roz. Everyone marvels about how Roz is the sweetest, while actual dialogue tells us Roz is borderline mean to Paul. Resentment and ingratitude about her dependency could be interesting, but since the author doesn’t develop them, it just reads as inconsistency. It’s so annoying when Roz muses that she can’t possibly thank her friend Charlotte enough for watching the kids for a few days (don’t name a character Charlotte in a book in which you’re going to have characters travel to Charlotte, by the way), while at the same time griping at Paul as he provides weeks of live-in support.
This book didn’t make me mad and didn’t feel exploitative, which can happen in books with cancer as a plot device, but that’s because the second half of it mostly acted as if the cancer had never happened. The kids, again, didn’t make me mad – they weren’t obnoxiously inaccurate – but only the youngest had much personality.
Did I care that Paul and Roz got their second chance? Not really. Will I give this author a second chance? Probably not.