Friday, August 08, 2008

New Release Spotlight: All We Ever Wanted Was Everything

All We Ever Wanted Was Everything
Janelle Brown

Ah, intelligent chick lit. As summer crests, journalist Janelle Brown’s first novel is a page-turner that doesn’t melt away as quickly as ice cream on the longest day.

All We Ever Wanted Was Everything starts as though no one in this book will need to want anything—“June in Santa Rita is perfect, just perfect…It isn’t too hot to play tennis. Silk doesn’t stick”—but upper-middle-class (and financially ascending) Janice Miller, her twenty-eight-year-old daughter Margaret, and her fourteen-year-old daughter Lizzie will of course end up wanting more than they can get. Though lots of books and television shows rub raw the facade that a wealthy life is a happy life (Desperate Housewives
, anyone?), the beauty of Brown’s story is that the characters’ troubles—and redemption—come from much more than that.

Janice’s husband and father of her two children leaves her for her best friend—just as the book begins and just as his company’s stocks make him a millionaire hundreds of times over. He has a sneaky legal contract that says his family can’t have what they’re entitled. Margaret is the well-educated feminist whose magazine has just left her in debt a hundred thousand times over. And Lizzie, barely a teenager and only recently coming out of a childhood of low self-esteem, has her own numbers to deal with. Though numerically lower than the rest of her family’s demons, hers are just as monumental: she’s slept with six boys in three months. Life for the Millers only grows worse from there.

The three hide out in the family’s California home—a survival strategy determined both consciously and subconsciously—though none fully realize that the others are having problems until the end. Told in third person, the chapters alternate among the three points of view, and the characters gracefully become three-dimensional. They aren’t gated-community robots—their mistakes and their reactions could happen, in one form or another, to anyone; they aren’t wholly victims—the cheating lovers and peer pressure are vague pains at the back of the book for most of the time, so the focus is on the people who matter, who matter for both their positive and their negative traits.

Sure, there are several conveniences, the Kelly character being the most glaring example, and the lives of the three Miller women are tied by the end of the book into bows, albeit messy ones. But with your ice cream only just beginning to drip down the cone, you can forgive some literary sloppiness, can’t you?

Review by Kristin Thiel, Indigo Editing, LLC

ISBN: 978-0-385-52401-8
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Pub Date: May 2008
Hardcover: $24.95

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