Most helpful critical review
Just another Sappy Romance!
on October 8, 2002
First of all, let me state that I put this book into the "sappy romance" category. I'm not a fan of sappy romances, but if you are you'll probably like this book a lot more than I did. Having said that, I submit the following review:
I read this book because it was chosen for our book club. This is the story of Mattie Hart. In the beginning of the book she is fantasizing about how to kill her husband, Jake, because she has just found out that he has been having an another affair.They decide to separate, and just as she is celebrating having him out of her life, she is diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) and is told she has a year to live. Out of guilt and a sense of responsibility, Jake moves back into the house to take care of her. Complicating the story is that fact that both Jake and Mattie had fathers who cheated and ran out, leaving them to cope with dysfunctional mothers, and their daughter Kim, whose father, Jake, cheated and left then came back and assumed a role that she's not comfortable with. The entire story centers around how Jake and Mattie and Kim work out their problems and learn to love each other in the short year before Mattie finally dies.
I will admit that the story was somewhat compelling to read and the ending tugged at my heartstrings--have one or two Kleenex ready. But to me, this was a shallow romance no better than the cheap paperbacks that are all the same formula. I had several problems with the plot.
The treatment of Mattie's disease was rather superficial and meaningless. I kept thinking about "Tuesdays with Morrie," a true story about a man dying from the disease. Some of the passages seemed straight out of that book, especially his thoughts about how you lose your dignity when you get to the point where someone else has to help you go to the bathroom and wipe your bottom. I'm convinced that the author used the book as reference material.
I felt that the psychological problems of Mattie and Jake were trivialized as well. A person who is as abused and neglected as either of them doesn't just magically heal from those wounds overnight, and certainly not in less than a year. And it is even less likely that two of them together would heal each other without the help of therapy, especially that quickly. The whole premise was very unbelievable, in my opinion. Also the daughter, Kim, began suffering self-esteem issues and was developing anorexia, which seemed to vanish without explanation except that they loved her out of it.
I was irritated and offended at the unnecessarily explicit sex scenes. They didn't add anything to the story; quite the reverse--they seemed to emphasize to the lack of depth in the story. An author who struggles with putting love into words always puts in plenty of sex scenes, as if love and sex are the same thing. And to tell the truth, the sex scenes weren't even exciting or compelling. They were rather clinical and dispassionate.
Most unbelievable was that her mother helped Mattie die in the end. I had a hard time believing that her mother, who magically changed from an indifferent, dysfunctonal mother to a caring, loving one, would deliberately kill her own child just at the point where they were beginning to have a really good relationship. Even if the child was sick and begged for help doing it. She was chosen by Mattie because she had no trouble putting her dogs to sleep when they were suffering, and somehow we are supposed to think that she would just as easily do the same for Mattie, in spite of the fact that she wasn't the one who actually put the dogs to sleep; she took them to the vet.
So even though the ending tugged at my heartstrings and got me to shed a few tears (which I probably needed to shed anyway for personal reasons), I am only giving this book 2 stars.