All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Stella Makes Good – Lisa Heidke

on February 6, 2012

Stella Makes Good
Lisa Heidke
Allen & Unwin AU
2012, 312p
Read from my local library

Stella and her ex-husband Terry are on excellent terms, even though they’re separated and Terry is now living with another woman. Stella is philosophical – their marriage had run its course, they had realised they had nothing to talk about with each other once their children were removed from the equation. She’s happy to maintain a friendly and communicative relationship with him, encouraging her children to visit him, even though they aren’t too happy that Dad is shacked up with another woman. She also keeps on excellent terms with Terry’s mother, popping in to see her and help out now and then. After all, she isn’t divorcing Terry’s family – just Terry.

Stella’s friend Carly has been hocking into the wine a little bit lately but she’s declared that this year is the year of finding herself a friend with benefits. A bit suspicious that her once loving, now a bit distant husband is having an affair, even though it’s a question she asks often and he denies, she thinks the passion is gone from their life. When she meets a young, nice doctor on a night out, she thinks that might be what she’s looking for. Or is it just the wine talking?

Their other friend Jesse’s life is in a bit of a mess. She’s married to the wealthy but overbearing and controlling Steve, who monitors her every move, disapproves of her friends and thinks they lead her astray and seeks to keep Jesse confined to the house. He quashes her desire to have a more demanding job, or another baby, telling Jesse that she’s simply not up for such things. And it’s true that Jesse is rather nervous, but who wouldn’t be with a spouse like Steve?

A night out between the three girls, where Jesse goes home early and where Carly meets the young doctor (who happens to be a colleague of Mike, the divorced dad from school whom Stella has been enjoying a flirtation with) and they end up at a party in the northern suburbs of Sydney that Stella, Mike, Carly and Toby, the doctor realise is not to their personal taste! Not before Carly and Stella recognise one of the participants though. They are torn about what to do – on one hand someone deserves to know what this person is up to. On another, it’s none of their business and could destroy friendships, marriages, even lives. Stella and Carly also disagree on how to handle it, which further puts off a decision they need to make.

Stella Makes Good is split between first person Stella’s point of view and third person for Carly and Jesse. Stella is at a stage where despite having separated from her husband, she is content and happy with her life. She has a job she loves at a local library and she has two lovely teenage children. Despite the fact that her and Terry are separated, he still calls often, seemingly for no reason at all at times, and Stella maintains a civil and friendly relationship with him with good humour, even when he starts telling her of his domestic woes with his new girlfriend. When Terry’s mother has a fall, it is decided she go and stay with Stella until she is better as Terry’s new girlfriend’s apartment isn’t suitable. Stella is the sort of person who seems to do the best she can by everyone.

By contrast, both Carly and Jesse don’t seem as together, or as content in their lives as Stella. But the three women, despite their differences, form a strong and enviable friendship that stands the test of time, different priorities and lifestyles. I really enjoy reading novels about women where friendship is at the crux of it and there are no dramas between them, no fights, no cattiness, no jealousy, no competition. There are issues – because life isn’t life without them – but they usually strengthen and enhance the friendship. Stella Makes Good is an excellent example of the sort of friendship I like to see and the sort of friendship you can imagine yourself having at their stages in life. They’re busy with jobs, or child-raising, or different lives but they still connect with each other, they still take time for each other and they’re understanding and supportive of the different things that happen.

Stella and Carly both disagree on how to handle an issue – Carly wants to spill the beans, Stella is more cautious but in the end, fortified by some wine, Carly lets fly and the truth outs. That sets off a chain reaction of events that end in a tragic accident for one of them and it’s through that incident that I also think this book shines. There’s a real believability to the emotion that the accident triggers, which I think is difficult to portray without coming across as over dramatic and fake, but Lisa Heidke nails it, the background already laid by the wonderful friendship the three women share.

Stella Makes Good is a lovely read, enjoyable and heartwarming but with a depth that isn’t obvious from the fun-looking cover. I really enjoyed the characterisation, particularly that of Jesse, who struggles with OCD and stress-induced behaviour and also that of Toby, the youngish doctor that Carly meets on the night the women are having a drink in a bar. I did sometimes wish that Stella would stand up for herself and be a bit assertive, she did strike me as very pliant and easily manipulated into doing things for other people, particularly Terry. Terry was only a small part of the book, but despite being separated from Stella he certainly prevailed upon her to do things for him! Stella Makes Good is my second Lisa Heidke read and I enjoyed this one even more than the first one I read, Claudia’s Big Break.

8/10

Book #19 of 2012

Stella Makes Good is my fifth read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2012. It’s set among the northern suburbs of Sydney and it’s not the first time I’ve visited this area for this challenge!

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5 responses to “Stella Makes Good – Lisa Heidke

  1. lisa Heidke says:

    Thanks for the great review! Much appreciated!

  2. shelleyrae @ Book'd Out says:

    I am glad you enjoyed it. I have Claudia’s big break to read soon.

    Thanks for sharing your review with the AWW Challenge

    Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out

  3. Brenda says:

    Great review:) I want to read this one!

  4. […] This review has appeared in GoodReads and is Book 8 of my Aussie Authors 2012 Challenge. Reviews of Stella Makes Good for the Australian Women Writers challenge include Paula, Jayne, Shelleyrae, Rachael, Monique and Bree. […]

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