When I Was You is deeeelicious! I stayed up way past my bedtime to read and finally put it down right before the last few chapters. And then laid in the dark trying to figure out where the story was going, picking apart the plot points, making sure I hadn’t missed anything. I literally could not go to sleep–no book has ever done that to me before; When I Was You is unpredictable, dark, funny, and layered and gets in your head like spiderwebs. The best part to me is the perspective it’s written from-somehow Garza creates the sense of total immersion in the main character’s head and, in doing so, raises the bar for psychologic thrillers. Pre-order now before someone spoils it for you:
WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS HUGE SPOILERS AND INCIDENTS OF ALL CAPS.
Seriously, this is a review for people who have already read this book. And you should definitely read this book.
Several friends suggested I read City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert-one went so far as to come to my house and hand me their copy. I found City of Girls, a refreshing story of female autonomy, engrossing from page one. It’s amazing, fantastic even, and I couldn’t put it down, but I do have some bones to pick.
The main character’s voice jumped off the page into my ear and I rooted for her every step of the way, even when she was being awful. Vivian is helped by being tall, skinny, and beautiful and for having the foresight to get really good at sewing in her youth. Looking like a supermodel and having superior skills in fashion design isn’t a bad set-up for life in the big city. The vibrant setting-New York City showbiz in the 1940s-makes you want to visit that time and place, in fact, I almost felt as though I had. Gilbert seamlessly weaves real-life events and people into the story, which enriches the historical context.
City of Girls explores nontraditional ways to live a woman’s life by showing how other women did it when alternatives were not readily available, and it is glorious. We see the benefits of hard work, natural talent, good looks, and learned courage. We see what a woman’s life looks like when she chooses self-determination and abandons norms: fulfillment of sexual desire on her own terms, loss of family connections, missteps that cause real pain to other people, freedom.
My issues with the story are as follows:
Young Vivian is the third party in a sexual threesome comprised of her best friend and the husband of a famous theater star. She is kinda coerced and kinda dumb and also really drunk when the tryst occurs. Unfortunately, the make-out session that led up to the encounter happened on the street and was photographed. Long story short, Vivian learns not to have sex with married men, but still spends the rest of her life sleeping around at will. That, of course, is not my problem. My problem is that even though she vows to never sleep with another married man, she picks up men in bars and beds them whenever she feels like it. I have bad news for Vivian and Elizabeth Gilbert-those men were probably ALL MARRIED. Men in bars who jump into bed with you ARE MARRIED, even in the 1940s. This seems like a significant oversight to me, especially since sisterhood is a main theme.
The star whose husband cheated dumps Vivian, but keeps the husband and the whole thing unfolds like Bill and Hillary. This dynamic goes unexplored, but it shouldn’t. IT SHOULDN’T, damn it. I don’t believe that unfaithfulness must automatically lead to divorce. How great would it be to spend some time mulling over how and why some couples stay together? And why the star forgave her husband, but not her friend?
And another thing, Vivian develops a long-term, secret friendship with a married man that can only be described as an emotional affair. How is that any better than having sex with him? Hell, its worse. This also goes unaddressed. The man and his wife lead separate lives and he is incapable of sex, so that makes it ok. Then why is it secret? Its secret because that goes to the main plot structure of the entire book. There, I have just about completely wrecked it for you.
All of my gripes aside, I loved this book because it’s about female desire, resilience, and how we can be when we decide to live the way want to. It shows the power of sisterhood while, perhaps inadvertently, admitting it’s shortcomings. Gilbert is a trailblazing voice for autonomy, not only in her writing, but by her willingness to share the details of her own life and loves. And I love her for it.
You know when a review starts with a quote by Freud it’s gonna get into the details…
“Freud observed, “How bold one gets when one is sure of being loved.” Ronna Russell in her book The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid, embodies the kind of selflove that enables one to share the most intimate and challenging details of life without fear.”
Scot Loyd’s review of The Uncomfortable Confessions of a Preacher’s Kid:
I am so honored and frankly stoked to share this review. It is a rare gift for a reader to connect and understand my story on various levels and with such pertinent insight.
Thank you, Scot.
I so appreciate everyone who has taken the time to post a review on Amazon or Goodreads. Good reviews are the lifeblood of book sales-literally nothing else matters more.
This one made my day:
5 out of 5 stars
Harrowing, heartbreaking, and hopeful
Ronna Russell takes us behind the curtain of fundamentalist Christianity and reveals a world little of us know about. Her insular upbringing causes her to make choices about her partner and then her marriage that lead to heartache and more. Yet, her grit and resilience allows her to overcome her past and forge a positive future. This book is for any woman who has ever wondered whether it was too late to change her life. Russell’s answer is a definitive no.
More reviews on Goodreads
The Uncomfortable Confessions Of a Preacher’s Kid for purchase on Amazon