Top positive review
4.0 out of 5 starsCharacter driven story with emotionally compelling plot
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on January 29, 2021
Casey is a 31-year-old single unpublished writer who has been working for 6 years on her novel while surviving as a waitress. She has just lost her mother and broken up with her long-time boyfriend. She has a brief passionate rebound relationship but turns out he betrays her early on by lying to her. If you want to take a journey with a relatable, likable character on her way towards realizing some of her dreams, then this may be just the book for you.
A major theme in this book is loss. Casey has recently lost some major relationships that were core to her life. For example, Casey comes home one day and thinks about calling her mom, then quickly remembers her mom has died. If death, loss and/or loneliness are triggering for you, then this may not be your season to read this book.
Loneliness is another prominent theme, as Casey feels alone during much of the novel, and is by herself for a significant portion. That said, Casey grows and develops throughout the story, and she is in a different emotional state by the end of the novel.
At the beginning of the novel there is a sad tone because Casey is desperate to evolve from her college-age like lifestyle to begin her more stable and adult years. Readers get the sense that she is craving a reliable, stable career, finances and relationship. Despite striving and working for years towards all those things, it just hasn’t happened for her yet. Even though at parts in the story it seems like her life is unraveling at the seams, this novel is about the journey of how her adult life path comes together.
In my opinion, King spends somewhat longer than necessary at the beginning of the novel setting the stage. There are lengthy descriptions about Casey waitressing, including describing humdrum everyday behind-the-scene occurrences of working in a restaurant. Readers who have never worked in a restaurant or heard about what it is like may find this interesting, and it does set context for Casey’s actions later. Personally, I have three children who waited tables as teenagers, and I’ve heard enough about it to last my lifetime.
While Casey waitresses for the practical purpose of paying her bills, her actual passion is writing. Casey is unsure about her writing ability and constantly questions her own judgement about her debut novel. While she is dedicated and diligent about writing, she is not confident about her ability and always second guessing herself. I think a lot of readers will relate to being experienced or knowledgeable about something and yet wondering if they are “doing it right” sometimes. Particularly in a craft like writing, where it is done in solitary isolation and then shared when completed. King’s descriptions of a writer’s concerns sounded authentic and I enjoyed reading about what kind of worries go through a writer’s mind.
Another dream Casey has is to have a family someday. When the story begins, she is feeling very lonely and heavy with the loss of significant people in her life, but as it unfolds Casey ends up befriending two men that are potential love interests. A significant portion of the conflict in the novel is Casey’s indecision between two love interests and determining at what point she absolutely needs to make a choice. One of the men is significantly more economically and emotionally stable. He is older than her, accessible, open with his feelings for her, well established in his career and has a history of successful long-term relationships in his past. The way Casey meets him is the perfect opening of a charming romance novel alone.
However, Casey has more chemistry with the other potential love interest. Even though the second man is still working on getting to an emotionally healthy place, struggles with communicating to Casey, is not economically stable and having trouble getting started in his career, she relates to him more and the passion between them is undeniable. He frequently makes her feel unsure about his feelings towards her and whether he even wants to be with her. He is the type of man that has lied to and left Casey in the past, and she is aware of this fact which complicates her decision.
I found myself rooting for one of these men, and Casey does not pick the man I was hoping she would. However, King gives us good reasons for why Casey makes her decision, and ultimately, I agree with the point King makes here. This is the time old tale of choosing between fireworks versus a steady fire. If you enjoy watching TV shows like The Bachelorette where a female character must decide between potential love interests, then you might enjoy reading about Casey’s experience deciding between these guys.
I do appreciate how dimensional King wrote the character of Casey. Generally, I prefer strong female characters that do not require being “rescued” by male characters. I do not enjoy reading about women who spend all their time thinking and talking about men (or a man), which always feels disappointing and sad to me. What I do like reading about are women that are the main character of their own life, and have a lot happening in all aspects of their life. In fact, if the female character can be the one who is doing some “rescuing” then I appreciate the realism.
Casey’s character fit my criteria for a strong female character. While Casey’s love life is a focus of conflict in the plot, there are other significant portions of the plot about Casey’s family of origin relationships, a health scare that she goes through, and her work of both waitressing and writing. I felt that was realistic and it made me care more about Casey’s character. I was reading equally as much to find out how Casey’s novel was received and whether she would get published, and how long she would tolerate the restaurant work environment, as much as I was reading to find out if she would decide to pursue a long term relationship with either of the men in her life. Overall, King created an impressively developed character driven story with emotionally compelling plot.