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Skipping a Beat: A Novel [Paperback]

Sarah Pekkanen
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Feb. 22 2011
From the author of the acclaimed The Opposite of Me, a poignant, witty novel about marriage, forgiveness, and the choices that give shape—and limits—to our lives.
                                                                            
What would you do if your husband suddenly wanted to rewrite all of the rules of your relationship?  This is the question at the heart of Skipping a Beat, Pekkanen’s thought-provoking second book.

From the outside, Julia and Michael seem to have it all.  Both products of difficult childhoods in rural West Virginia – where they were simply Julie and Mike – they become high school sweethearts and fall in love.  Shortly after graduation, they flee their small town to start afresh.  Now thirty-somethings, they are living a rarified life in their multi-million-dollar, Washington D.C. home. Julia is a highly sought-after party planner, while Michael has just sold his wildly successful flavored water company for $70 million.

But one day, Michael collapses in his office. Four minutes and eight seconds after his cardiac arrest, a portable defibrillator jump-starts his heart. But in those lost minutes he becomes a different man. Money is meaningless to him - and he wants to give it all away. Julia, who sees bits of her life reflected in scenes from the world’s great operas, is now facing with a choice she never anticipated. Should she should walk away from the man she once adored – but who truthfully became a stranger to her long before this pronouncement - or give in to her husband's pleas for a second chance and a promise of a poorer but happier life?  

As wry and engaging as her debut, but with quiet depth and newfound maturity, Skipping a Beat is an unforgettable portrait of a marriage whose glamorous surface belies the complications and betrayals beneath.

 

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Review

“The impossible choice between true love and the trappings of success is explored in Skipping a Beat. Sarah Pekkanen proves masterful at creating nuanced, complex characters deadlocked with emotional conflict, and the story culminates in an ending that will leave readers breathless. Evocative and compelling, it couldn’t be more satisfying.”Jen Lancaster, author of Bitter is the New Black

"A provocative, poignant look at marriage, money and the things that matter most." —Beth Kendrick, author of The Pre-Nup

"Original, engaging, and soulful, Skipping a Beat explores the complexity of marriage and what it really means to share a life. I fell in love with Julia, a funny, flawed and utterly real heroine—and felt the weight of her dilemma with every page, all the way through to the surprising, satisfying finish." —Emily Giffin, New York Times bestselling author of Something Borrowed and Heart of the Matter

"Tender and funny in turn, Sarah Pekkanen has made modern marriage exciting in this imaginative and heartfelt tale of love and healing." —Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, #1 New York Times bestselling authors of The Nanny Diaries

"In her second novel, Pekkanen (The Opposite of Me) offers a wonderfully compelling, compassionate, and complicated portrait of the marriage of Julie and Michael Dunhill. Meeting in high school, the two were both determined to leave their hometown behind and make something of their lives, contrary to how they were raised. With Michael’s colossal and unpredicted financial success, these once loving sweethearts drift apart and find different foci for their passionate energies—Michael is completely absorbed in his DrinkUp company and Julie in her party-planning business. When Michael collapses on his office floor and dies for four minutes and eight seconds, their whole world changes, and both are left to reevaluate what they thought was important in life. For Julie though, this is a struggle to overcome the disappointment, sense of abandonment, and misunderstandings she’s harbored against her husband for years. VERDICT: In this compelling and satisfying read, Pekkanen offers relatable characters that move you and an ending that surprises and pleases. Highly recommended." —Library Journal, starred review

“A two-hanky weepy… A tragic turn of events redirects what could have been a predictable romance into a drama on the fragility of love and marriage.” —Kirkus

“An insightful examination of a marriage. The moving story and bittersweet ending will draw in readers” —Booklist

"This portrait of a couple forced to take responsibility for the breakdown of their relationship is at once heartbreaking and familiar." —People

“Intelligent and entertaining.” —The Washington Post

About the Author

Sarah Pekkanen is the internationally bestselling author of The Opposite of Me, Skipping a Beat, These Girls, and The Best of Us as well as a series of linked short stories for ereaders. Her work has been published in numerous magazines and newspapers. She lives with her family, including a rescue dog and cat, in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting twist! Oct. 3 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This was the first of Sarah Pekkanen's books that I read and I loved it. I have since ordered more. Imagine how you would feel if your husband had a near death experience and decided he needed to give away all his wealth in order to find the true meaning of life! This was a book that kept me reading well into the early hours of the morning. I love the writing style - easy but descriptive. Anxiously awaiting the Amazon delivery!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic! Dec 21 2011
By Lydia - Novel Escapes TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
I loved everything about this novel from the unique story line, to the dynamics between Julia and Michael and the supporting cast. Skipping a Beat explores love, marriage, family, ambition and success, and its unique and intimate voice delivers an intensely compelling and satisfying read.

Reading Skipping a Beat felt like curling up in front of a fireplace with a glass of wine and new friend while she unveiled her life story. It was that intimate. It was that real. It carried that much depth of emotion. The way the story unfolds felt exactly like someone would tell it in confidence to a new friend who wasn't aware of her situation or history. I found this fascinating and am certain I've never read another novel that had quite the same feel or drew me in as casually and intimately as Skipping a Beat.

I loved Julia's character. She felt so real to me and was so complex that even though I didn't always agree with her or felt her cold at times, I understood her decisions and feelings at every turn. I rooted for her and related to her even without the same marital or financial situation. I wanted her to fall back in love with Michael, to see past her own financial insecurities and move forward and I couldn't stop flipping pages to see what would happen.

The possibility of falling back in love with your spouse after veering so far apart appealed to my romantic side and the other marital discussions including the exploration of trust within a marriage had me thinking at every turn. Even though I thought I knew what was going to happen, there were surprises that held predictability at bay.

I'm normally not a fan of the flashback, but Pekkanen doesn't fail to deliver.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  123 reviews
44 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Skipping A Beat is a MUST READ! LOVED It! Feb. 19 2011
By Sheila A. Dechantal - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In high school they were Julie and Mike and they were inseparable. In college they were room mates and then they were married. In the early years they scraped by on what little they had working hard and dreaming big. Julie started a party planning business that took off and she was able to start putting a little away. Then Mike, always the dreamer came up with an idea that changed the look of health drinks forever. As production rolled out on the flavored waters, Mike, now a more sophisticated Michael, became more and more caught up in the business and the sweet generous man Julie once knew, became second to the business... a mistress, she could not compete with. Her compensation becomes the material things they now own, the large multi million dollar home, the cars, the jewelry, and travel. Julia wants for nothing. Anniversaries were missed, replaced instead by delivered flowers with notes of promises to be there for the next one... and nights became cold and lonely as Julie, not Julia, slept alone as Mike traveled for work for nights than not.

Then a brush with death changes everything for Michael. Suddenly he sees more clearly what is important, and money becomes meaningless to him. Yet Julia gave up on love a long time ago and has grown accustomed to doing things alone and living the high life. Now it looks like Michael wants to turn his back on it all, give it all up and put his full attention on Julia.

Julia feels that it too little....

too late.

Honestly? I loved this book even more than her first! I connected well with the characters of Julia and Michael and found that these two well-developed characters left me feeling like the best friend in the middle. I completely understood Julia's reluctance to be hurt by letting Michael in after the years of absence in their lives. Her fear was all too real to me as she struggles to hang on to what has become the norm in their lives. Once she had created herself around the world she lived in, it was not a fit for it to suddenly change.

I could relate to Michael too.... he was doing what he could to change the way things had become - but his complete about-face was way too much - too soon.

What I really loves about this book was how real it all felt. I have heard many times how once someone is forced into a different mold for a while we can adjust to new things and many times find the changes welcome, even if we did no think we would. Sarah Pekkanen writes a story that touched me deeply as this couple struggles to find their way... and in the process...

well, you are going to have to read this one to find out more.

I had a hard time putting this book down and highly recommend this book, as one of the best books I have read this year. An original writing that left me wanting more! Totally two thumbs up and a three tissue read.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not Your Average Chick Lit...Thank Goodness March 27 2011
By Bellingham Bookworm - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a very difficult book to review because I can't reveal too much with giving away spoilers. So with that in mind I'll speak a little generally here.

I will first admit that I LOVE chick lit. Love it! However, after a while the books written in that genre do tend to follow a formula. Nice, yet quirky girl discovers: a) her husband is a cheater and plans to leave her for a younger bimbo, b) she loses her job through no fault of her own, or c) she realizes that she is nearing some big milestone (30th birthday or similar) and discovers that she forgot to grow up. Then various mishaps unfold until the girl finds a happy ending.

You need to know that this book is not like that at all. Instead of a cartoonish main female character, a kooky best friend, and a one dimensional love interest you get real characters that you care about. I love the nuances of these characters, flaws and all. The author has created a story of marriage, drifting apart, staying together out of convenience and regret that is spun so beautifully that by the end of the book you will be bleeding for these characters.

If I had one little piece of criticism it would be that the end wrapped up everything up in a tight red bow. Though I suppose if it hadn't I would have been bitterly disappointed. I had a very satisfying and ugly cry that only a truly excellent book can give you.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful book on friendship, marriage and letting go March 3 2011
By Crystal Fulcher - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Wow, what a book. Ms. Pekkanen really has an inside look on marriage and womanhood. When Michael has a death experience one day during a meeting, he changes completely. Without consulting his wife, Julia, he decides he will give away all he owns in order to make amends for things he has done. He also wants to concentrate fully on his wife Julia who he has neglected since starting his own business on the way to becoming a multi-millionaire. But it's not that simple. Julia has gotten use to their life and she resents him for pulling the money out from under her and she's holding other resentments as well.

Honestly there were times I thought I would put the book down. Julia would seem a little childish but then Ms. Pekkanen would delve into the whys of her actions and thoughts and then I understood Julia so much more. I think every woman will find some of herself in Julia, whether it has to do with marriage or relationship with family members or just trying to get ahead. Julia turns out to be a remarkable character who grows through the book and learns to let go. I enjoyed watching her journey and really felt for her at times. Anyone who is married knows there are always rocky times and you both have to work to make it last. Ms. Pekkanen does a wonderful job of showing this yet showing that sometimes it's better not to give up.

Michael was fascinating and it's not until later in the book that you really get into his motivations as well and you begin to understand the whys of what he is doing. I think the author did a magnificent job of layering the plot so we pulled away layer by layer to see how the characters would develop next. At times I wanted to bop both of them on the head, but there was a purpose to those times and it made the other times in the novel all the more special.

I also enjoyed Julia's friend, Isabelle, she brought a nice sideline into the story and also some humor. I think all women want a friend like Isabelle, one who will laugh with you, cry with you and set you straight when you need to be. I enjoyed watching their friendship.

The book moves quickly. It is like you open the book to the first page and the next thing you know you have read 100 pages and if those first 100 pages went fast then the last half of the book moves even faster. It kept me up past my bedtime because I just had to finish it to see what would happen.

And that is all I am going to give you - just know it is a special book. If you enjoy stories by Emily Giffin and Elizabeth Berg then give Sarah Pekkanen a try. I know I am going to go back and read Opposite of Me now that I have read Skipping a Beat. These are the types of stories I really enjoy. Give me women characters who are struggling and not perfect, ones I can relate to and you have me hooked. Ms. Pekkanen has gained a new fan in me after reading Skipping a Beat.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everything will be ok March 22 2011
By ReaderEsq - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I have never felt so connected to a character as I did with Julia. Perhaps it was the way that she thought about things was so similar to myself. Ironically, I also felt connected to Michael and became frustrated with Julia in several parts of the book. I actually, could not stop reading this book and once it was over I went back and read the last section of the book again. This book is a tear jerker but well worth it, with an ending that makes you so yearn for life to always be that good to us.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Could not put it down. March 18 2011
By A. Tsang - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this book for my Sony reader and couldn't put it down once I started it. Sarah Pekkanen's writing style draws me in from the very first few words on the page and keeps me enthralled until I read the last word of the book, leaving me wanting more. I would have read this all in one day had my one-year-old allowed me to do that.

Great story. Very likable characters. Vivid images. Can't say enough about this book or this author. I want more, more, more from her!
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