Three Good Things

Wendy Francis
January 2013, Women's Fiction
Simon & Schuster, $15.00, 256 pages, Amazon ASIN 1451666349

Grade: C
Sensuality: N/A

Of course I donít expect seismic changes to happen with womenís fiction, but I do expect more than a glimpse of everyday life. Three Good Things elaborates on a couple of issues facing Ellen McClarety and her sister Lanie, but for the most part their problems are treated in a lackadaisical manner Ė maybe a result of telling instead of showing, and the end result is a pleasant book with a dearth of emotional content.

With no catastrophe in sight and little fanfare after ten years of living with her irresponsible, happy-go-lucky husband, Max, Ellen McClarety has finally reached her limit. It was almost like she woke up one morning and thought, "This is it." Ellen finally realized that Max was never going to change. She was not only the main financial provider, she also gave freely of herself, something that Max never learned.

As part of her new transformation, she decides to ditch her life as a university secretary. The old pizza place going up for sale is an unquestionable serendipitous sign for her to pursue her dream of creating something of her own. So with her motherís cherished battered copy of The Book of Kringle, she opens Singular Kringle, a shop specializing in butter-layered pastries introduced to Wisconsin by 1800 immigrant Danish bakers.

Once word of mouth kicks in Ellen easily has a steady clientele. Soon she is able to hire two UW grads to work as part-time help, five days a week. Even though she is content, there is a void in her life. Is she missing her ex-husband or just missing someone to care? Then suddenly it is raining men. On a whim she invites Henry Moon, a sort of odd duck, to dinner, and then her ex-husband comes a-calling.

Ellenís younger sister, Lani, has always been an overachiever. But motherhood has turned her ordered life upside down. She would love some motherly advice, but her mother died when she was six, and Ellen sixteen. Did her mother ever feel like she was meeting herself coming and going like Lani? As a divorce attorney, she canít desert the women who truly need her, but then again her main concern is her young son. Why isnít her husband Rob more involved in his care? Little does she know, but her husband is feeling neglected. It is not that he doesnít love his son, but when will their sex life get back to normal?

Three Good Things is an easy book to read. The author, in a laid back manner, explores Lanie and Ellenís lives. Still, it did take a while for it to catch my interest, as I kept waiting for the main conflict to appear.

Ellenís love life sure isnít filled with fireworks. And I found that problematic. Not that I require the earth to move, but I want the heroine to think that sex is more than pleasant and for there to be an emotional bond between the two. And I didnít feel that - liking yes, but an emotional connection, no.

Laniís story is rather clichťd both in the conflict and the solution. Again the author tells rather than shows Lani and Rob working out a remedy for her overburdened schedule. It would have been so much more effective if conversation had been included. I was left believing that Lani and Rob still have communication issues. Plus I am still wondering if Rob ever got lucky.

The book is supposed to shine the light on Midwestern womenís tenets. And yes, I did get a sense that Lani and Ellen are strong, resilient women. Their transformation was forged by their motherís early teachings and then her early death. Their mother knew that she was dying and left letters for Lani, since she was only six, to read upon reaching lifeís milestones, which is touching. But this aspect is not elaborated on further, which seemed like a missed opportunity.

The book does have its whimsical side. The author includes words of wisdom from the Book of Kringle and unconventionally educates the reader on grammar mistakes. I am pretty sure that I have said irregardless, which is not a word, and I didnít remember from grammar classes that when referring to a general amount use less, but for a specific number use fewer.

Overall this is not a bad book, but it needs more emotional depth to be considered a good one.

-- Leigh Davis

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