on February 26, 2003
I've never written to an author before, I've never felt compelled to do so. That is until now! I've read ALL of your books, which by the way, are ALL GREAT! I have just finished "The First Time" (I read out of order!) and that is why I feel compelled to write to you. Now, I have to tell you that I rarely, IF EVER, cry reading books!
In fact, up till now, there has been only one book I've ever cried over and that was Nicholas Sparks, the Notebook, which I sobbed and sobbed. Your book, The First Time, has taken over spot No. ONE in that department! I cried and cried and cried! It's a good thing the pages are printed in non-runny ink! This book was very moving, it must be to have made me cry so much! I've cried in movies, and that's not too often either. Just so you know what company your book keeps I can only list six movies I've ever cried in. Here's how I rank them in tearfulness:
1) The Champ (Ricky Schroeder)
2) Stolen Hours (Susan Hayward/remake of Dark Victory w/Bette Davis)
3) Madam X (Lana Turner)
4) Stella Dallas (Barbara Stanwyck)
5) Love Story
6) Breakfast At Tiffany's (happy tears)
I didn't even cry in that movie with Shirley Mclain, where the daughter has cancer! Everyone else did.
Well anyway, just wanted to tell how much I enjoy your books. It's amazing how you are able to swing between the scary stuff and ,now (after The First Time and Grand Avenue), the relationship stuff! KEEP THOSE BOOKS COMING! You are a VERY TALENTED WRITER!
In 1998-1999, Mattie, then 37 discovers she has Lou Gehrig's disease. The illness is manifested in laughing uncontrollably a propos of nothing, fatigue and muscular degeneration. Once she has a through physical, she copes with the devastating news.
Mattie's husband, Jason nicknamed "Jake" is seemingly impersonal and distant. He carries on an affair with a singularly odious woman named Honey who takes her place with Fielding's other despicable literary women such as Kate Sinclair in "Missing Pieces," Gail Walton in "Life Penalty," Elaine, Jill and Nicole in "The Other Woman," Paula in "See Jane Run," Debbie in "Good Intentions" and Jess in "Tell Me No Secrets." Honey wants Jake to divorce Mattie and is delighted to hear of Mattie's illness.
I actively disliked Honey and thought she nothing to recommend her. When she barges in on Jake in his office and demands a hug, I wanted him to kick her out the door at worst and have Security not-too-gently eject her from the premises at best. She has the audacity to barge in on Jake and Mattie's "honeymoon" in Paris as well. I wish Jake had gotten a restraining order for her. I thought she was a ruthless, conniving, manipulative character.
Mattie and her 16-year-old daughter Kim have long bonded; Jake attempts to bond with her by taking her to the court where he is trying a case. His efforts are singularly rebuffed. A good story about love, loss and repair. Mattie is a delightful, sympathetic character who will tug at many hearts.
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.
on June 6, 2002
Having enjoyed Joy Fielding's GRAND AVENUE so much, I was anxious to read another by this author. I secretly doubted she could duplicate the magic of the aforementioned book, but she did! The story is completely different, but the same compelling style of writing reels you in and makes you never want to put the book down.
You will be completely involved in Mattie Hart's life from the opening line when she is thinking of ways to kill her philandering husband to the unthinkable request she makes of her mother. You will be struck by the inner strength this woman brings to her life as well as to that of her family and deeply touched by the graphic description of a terminal illness.
Jake Hart, her husband, is an interesting creation. He doesn't love his wife, never has. He only married her because she was pregnant and Jake always likes to do the right thing. He constantly cheats on Mattie throughout their sixteen years of marriage and has never said "I love you" to her. So what's to like about a man like this? Amazingly, Fielding is able to present a side of Jake that touches every emotional note and leaves you rooting for this multi-faceted character.
From a comical steak-throwing spree in a Chicago grocery store to a wildly romantic chase through a Paris airport, Mattie and Jake's story will leave you breathless. Add to the mix their daughter Kim who is experiencing her first sexual misadventure and Mattie's mother who could never love her daughter like she needed to be loved.
THE FIRST TIME explores the ties that bind and the power of love to overcome the deepest wounds people can inflict upon one another. Inspiring and highly emotional, this book is one that touches the heart with its realism and poignant moments.
on May 28, 2002
The First Time is a novel that was read over the course of a weekend. When I was not actively reading, the characters and the story line occupied many of my thoughts.
Mattie, who has pretended to be oblivious to Jake's regular infidelity, discovers that she has ALS - Lou Gehrig's Disease and has only a short time to live. Jake, who has recently moved out of the home, returns with a guilty conscience and feels that he must take care of Mattie and their daughter, Kim. Family members are dealing with their own turmoil. Kim is experiencing great difficulties in school. Jake, the ever-strong successful lawyer is struggling with Mattie's illness and a childhood that continues to haunt. Joy Fielding was able to take the troubled marriage between Mattie and Jake Hart and explore how their union was forged, what factors kept them together, and what was tearing them apart. The Hart family is on the edge; Fielding explores the feelings in a realistic and heartfelt manner.
Characters that are alive and realistic occupy space in The First Time. The novel is engrossing and realistic throughout. Keep a few Kleenex's handy; you will likely shed a tear before the final page is turned! The First Time was my first experience with Joy Fielding; I will definitely be back for more!
on May 20, 2002
It was her most recent novel, Grand Avenue, that got me interested in reading more of Fielding's books. And this one didn't disappoint at all!! It is refreshingly honest, gripping and delved into the myriads of familial relationships even before diaster strikes!
Mattie Hart has spent almost 16 years playing wife to hot-shot defense attorney Jake Hart ~~ quietly ignoring the signs of his numerous affairs. She raised their daughter, the reason why they got married, Kim as best as she could. Not saying that Mattie is the perfect wife or mother ~~ she has made some mistakes in her lifetime as well ~~ but when she found out she was stricken with ASL or Lou Gehrig's disease, her whole world tumbled. Jake had already moved out and started living with his newest paramour ~~ only to move home to take care of Mattie. And this is their story. Theirs and Kim's.
Families aren't always strong as it appears to the public ~~ Jake Hart's glowing image got tarnished throughout the story as he struggled with issues related to his marriage and childhood. Ultimately, he decided on one course and saw it to the end ~~ much to Mattie's great surprise. Kim, usually the perfect beautiful daughter, gets in trouble constantly at school or at home ~~ unable to totally understand what is really going on in her life and with her mother. She comes to realization later on as well ~~ accepting the fact that they all are human. Mattie ~~ the star of this book manages to live her life and lies gracefully ~~ though the disease ravaged her body. Some of the dreams she had never known she had held managed to come to the surface ~~ and she learns to deal with them as well as the fact that she is dying.
This book strikes a chord in this reader's heart. Family relationships aren't always easy but if you stick them out, they turn out to be the greatest blessings. Fielding does a wonderful job of sharing her characters' thoughts and views as life they know it tumbles around them. And they manage to deal with Mattie's dying with grace and humor ~~ after a long, bitter fight.
I have to admit, this is another book you can't just put down and forget about for a few days. You'll be grabbed by the characters' voices and dreams ~~ you'll know them as intimately as you know a friend or even yourself. And be prepared to have kleenexes nearby. It's a book you won't quickly forget!
on April 12, 2002
One would assume that these two things go together, unfortunately for the characters in this novel, Mattie and Jake, the two do not go hand in hand. Mattie and Jake married young due to an unexpected pregnancy. Jake always felt that he was pressured to do the right thing. He never truly gave himself to Mattie or their teenage daughter Kim.
When Mattie discovers Jake's most recent infidelity she realizes that things have to change. Jake also wants a change in his life, he has decided to leave his wife and daughter and move in with his girlfriend. Mattie is ready to move on with her life when she receives the devastating news that she has ALS - Lou Gehrig's disease. Upon hearing this Jake decides to move back in with Mattie and Kim. It is then that he discovers that the only true way to find one another and fall in love is to communicate. Jake has had an abusive upbringing, something of which he has told Mattie very little about. Mattie herself has had to deal with a broken home and a father who walked away.
It is during their time together now that Jake realizes his true feelings for Mattie. He falls in love with her for the first time. Ironically for Mattie, it becomes the best of times and the worst of times.
Joy Fielding does a great job of delving into the relationships in this book. Everyone has their own demons to confront and the family does manage to draw together in their time of crisis. Unfortunately I was all too aware of the horrible effects of ALS, as a family member has recently passed away with this. Fielding deals with its consequences realistically.
Since reading this book I am anxious to start her newest release. She has proven herself a wonderful storyteller.
on May 1, 2001
After trying to get into a few crime/suspense novels, I picked up 'The First Time' just for something different and was blown away as to what an excellent book this was.
Mattie Hart has spent her entire marriage turning a blind eye to her husbands unfaithfulness and is slowly falling apart. After a few strange happenings and feelings, she is diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, a crippling disease that eventually is fatal.
Her husband, feeling guilty, returns home to help her and look after his teenage daughter. Basically, this book is very thin on plot, but it isn;t the plot that makes this story interesting, it is the three main characters, that make this book unforgettable and un-put-down-able!
Even though the story rushes toward a tragic ending, it is the emotion, psychology and dialogue that will have the reader glued to the book.
I definately recommend this book if you are after something that will stay with you and is superbly written.
Well done, Ms Fielding!
on March 12, 2001
I just finished reading this book and am stunned by how much it touched me. It was not only the best book Joy Fielding has ever written but one of the best books I have ever read. I like Joy Fielding books and have read all of them and this one by far is her deepest. Her others are a much lighter read and although they are enjoyable (especially See Jane Run) this one she outdid herself with and I feel it deserves recognition. It is a much better read than a Danielle Steele novel. It is worth paying hardcover price!! Each character was interesting in this story but Mattie and her daughter Kim were so heartfelt in their relationships and struggles. The way that the author explained Mattie's disease was so easy to understand as she kept it simple but explained it fully. I of course hated Jake and the way he was so selfish but by the end of the book I felt differently. I loved every part of this book, even the ending. If you like a heartfelt, meaningful story about family and tragedy, you will love this book.
on January 6, 2001
Mattie and Jake Hart married young when they found they were expecting a child, and though they have remained married 16 years, Mattie is aware of Jake's many infidelities and believes that he has never really loved her. Their daughter, Kim, is also aware of the tension between her parents, and has a distant relationship with her often absent father. Mattie is considering having an affair of her own to "get even", but can't really bring herself to confront Jake.
Jake chooses to leave Mattie to live with his mistress, but then they Mattie is diagnosed with ALS, a fatal disease that could end her life in as little as one year. This situation causes great stress on all of the family members, and Jake eventually decides that the right thing to do is return home to live with Mattie and care for her as long as she needs him. What he hadn't counted on is falling in love with her.
Mattie, Jake and Kim struggle with their emotions and their feelings for each other, and Kim acts out by punishing her father in any way she can, while trying to deal with all the other pressures of being 15 years old.
The emotions described in the novel are real, and the primary characters are well developed. The story is compelling, and the reader develops great empathy towards the Harts and their predicament. I so wanted this book to have a happy ending, and in a way it does, although you know from the outset that there's no cure for ALS.
The First Time is a sad, but somehow uplifting story with a real message that in the end all we have to give to others is love.