All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

The Best Of Us – Sarah Pekkanen

on December 4, 2013

Best Of USThe Best Of Us
Sarah Pekkanen
Simon & Schuster AUS
2013, 335p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

For most of them, the invitation comes as a surprise. An all-expenses paid vacation for a week to Jamaica flying by private jet and staying in a luxury villa. For the group of old college friends and their partners it is a chance to reconnect and celebrate the 35th birthday of one of them. Everyone is desperate for something….not just the chance to catch up and relax.

For Tina, mother of 4 it’s the chance to be an adult again with no responsibilities. It’s the chance to get a good night’s sleep, to have a few drinks, to spend some time with her husband without being interrupted. Even though she feels a crippling guilt at leaving their children, ranging in age from 8 to 2, she also recognises that she needs this. Badly.

For Allie, forever the organised and capable one it is the chance to escape something hanging over her head. With the news that her biological father and grandfather both died of the same disease and the realisation that it can be genetic, Allie is struggling with the fact that her life might be cut short one day. She has a husband and two children and she can’t bear the thought of leaving them. Or that her husband hasn’t even noticed anything is wrong.

For Savannah it is the chance to put on a brave face and confess her husband’s adultery and their subsequent separation in a setting that won’t invoke too much analysing. It’s also the chance to maybe move on and find some fun….but is she looking at one of her friend’s husbands for the fling?

And for Pauline, it is the chance to give her husband, the man who has everything, something that she thinks will make him happy: time with his old friends, the few people who call him that. She already feels the cracks appearing in their marriage and she hopes that this time together might paper them back together…but it could tear it apart completely.

All of the luxury and the relaxation cannot hide the fact that the cracks are showing in every relationship. And although a hurricane is on the way and they have to batten down and ride it out, it might not be what does the most damage.

The Best Of Us brings together a group of college friends who have gone on to lead very different lives. Tina is married with a pack of kids and her husband works long hours in construction which often leads to her feeling isolated, unsupported in the parenting and frustrated. Allie works part time as a social worker and has two children who are older now and all in school. She’s been given some potentially horrible news and isn’t sure how to deal with it, choosing to keep it locked up inside. Savannah is childless by choice but reeling from the collapse of her marriage. Her confidence is shaken and she wants to hit back by moving on and swiftly. Dwight was the quintessential geek in college, with barely any friends. Now he’s rich having cashed in before the dot com crash. He might be wealthy and successful and married to the groomed Pauline now but he still isn’t very comfortable around many people. What could be the perfect holiday and reunion has the potential to explode if even some of these secrets come out.

As the mother of two boys 5 and 2, I related a lot to Tina, who has limited babysitting options and twice the kids that I do. My husband and I don’t get to do many things because our family doesn’t live nearby and we don’t have  a paid babysitter so if I had the chance to go to Jamaica (or similar) and I could find someone to mind my kids who I trusted, I would be beside myself! But I’d also be worried about them as well, because it’s difficult to leave your kids behind and enjoy yourself without them. It tends to make you feel guilty! It takes Tina a little while to let go, to let loose and even after that she still has moments of panic (like the moment where the babysitter says that her youngest has a sore tummy and she freaks that it’s appendicitis). At times Tina is just a little too over the top protective mother but she’s also the primary caregiver. I’m lucky in that my husband shares much more of the parenting than hers does, including the sleepless nights. Tina sounds like she’s desperate for help but she nags her husband for it which tends to make him cross and unwilling to give it. She needs to learn to relax a little and let the small things go.

At times I felt like everyone in this novel was worst than a teenager on their first alcoholic bender. There’s so much drinking going on that it’s unsurprising that the lines of friendship begin to blur. Savannah finds herself flirting with Gio, Tina’s husband, who seems to be flirting back. Allie finds herself confiding her problems to Dwight. She was the one that brought him into their circle in college and although they’ve only maintained loose contact since graduation, she trusts him to keep her secrets when she can’t even bring herself to tell her husband. Allie accepts that her husband isn’t capable in a crisis – even when their girls are sick and needs medicine, it’s Allie that dispenses it. In Dwight she finds someone to lean on, briefly, which she needs. However, both of them begin to have trouble determining where their feelings truly are. I think Allie bothered me the most. A lot of the time people don’t always know if there’s something wrong unless you tell them. They’re not mindreaders and she does her husband a real disservice waiting for him to ask her what’s wrong and then being pissed off when she doesn’t. It’s really passive aggressive and lashing out because of that is childish. I wanted to tell her to wake up to herself and go and get tested or not, but stop wallowing in it and waiting for people to feel sorry for her.

Even though Dwight is wealthy and this book takes place in paradise at its core it could be a group of any friends holidaying anywhere having these issues. I can’t decide if I loved or hated the end – a lot of things do get resolved and other things get brought out in to the open but there are some things that some characters choose to keep hidden and one in particular made me feel a bit sick because if my husband acted the way that several of the characters do in this book, I would want to know. I would hate to think that he could keep something like that from me and that a friend of mine would keep something like that from me too. I would want to know so that I could judge for myself and decide what I wanted to do and how I felt about things. Without honesty there isn’t trust and that made me really question one of the characters’ morals and actions. However, I do think that this is realistic. People will take the chance of someone never finding out and in some cases, what people don’t know, won’t hurt them. But if those people ever do find out…the betrayal is 10 times as great. Because the culprit could’ve confessed and chose not to.

Despite my personal misgivings with some of the ending, overall I did really enjoy this book and its look at friendship and marriage and the way we face changes in our lives. The name of the author seemed familiar to me and when I was looking for the cover of this book, I spotted another that I thought looked familiar. I scoured my TBR shelves and found another Sarah Pekkanen book lurking there (I have so many unread books, I don’t even know what I have anymore) and pulled it out to read soon! It’s always a bonus when you find a new author to love and then discover you already have one of their books!


Book #308 of 2013

A little bit of fun…..

The notes in the back of the book for book club/discussion etc talk about the playlist Savannah makes from the group from their college/university years and encourages the reader to make one to share with their book group. It got me thinking what I’d put on my compilation….. You can fit about 17 songs on a CD but I’m rounding it up to 20. In no particular order, other than the #1 song which got me through many a bad moment and a late night writing assignments on public policy and international relations, here they are:

20.  Hanging By A Moment by Lifehouse
19. Drops Of Jupiter, by Train
18. One Step Closer, by Linkin Park
17. Fallin’, by Alicia Keys
16. Amazing, by Alex Lloyd
15. Ballroom Blitz, by The Sweet (And the rest of the 100 Best Beer Drinking Songs!)
14. Barricades & Brickwalls, by Kasey Chambers (actually that whole album)
13. Tribute, by Tenacious D
12. Superman, by Five For Fighting
11. Down With The Sickness, by Disturbed
10. Chop Suey!, by System of a Down
09. Chemical Heart, by Grinspoon
08. Wherever You Will Go, by The Calling
07. How You Remind Me, by Nickelback
06. My Happiness, by Powderfinger (and the rest of Odyssey Number Five)
05. Betterman, by John Butler Trio
04. Lose Yourself, by Eminem
03. The Anthem, by Good Charlotte
02. Are You Gonna Be My Girl? by Jet
01. Judith, by A Perfect Circle.

Some of those I loved (and still love), others I heard in my dorm rooms constantly and remind me of that time.

What would be on your list?



One response to “The Best Of Us – Sarah Pekkanen

  1. […] really enjoyed the last Sarah Pekkanen novel I read (The Best Of Us – my review is here) so I jumped at the chance to read her latest novel, Catching Air. In The Best Of Us  I really […]

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