I had a delightful time reading “Beatrice Munson.” Lorena Bathey’s descriptions of people, colors and tastes make everything feel so real that it just jumps off the page. It’s easy to visualize everyone and everything and to be drawn into the story. I enjoyed the opportunity to read about women entrepreneurs again and become inspired by them, as well as by Beatrice’s outpouring of love and generosity. The characters had a lot of depth to them and were all easy to sympathize with in one way or another. I loved that Marissa just seemed average at first but then people saw how special she was. It allowed me to live vicariously through the lives of all the women and escape for a little bit, every time I picked it up to read more of the story.
Since most of the story was light and upbeat, I was worried that there would be no drama. Ms. Bathey found a way to surprise me though, when I was least expecting it. There are some intense moments, as well as sad parts. However, a lot of the drama seems to get resolved in the most idealistic of ways, even when you think it can’t be resolved at all. While I’m a happy person who believes that everyone deserves to have good things in their lives, I know people who are cynical and would never buy into this story, even if I shoved it in their face. From their point of view, I could see why they wouldn’t. Things just seemed too perfect throughout the story, even when there were pitfalls here and there. This also caused a lot of the conversations between the characters to be overly sappy. It was like a Hallmark Movie of the Week, as a result. I also felt that one thing was a bit unrealistic...Marissa calling Beatrice her “nemesis,” only because Beatrice happened to be in the right place at the wrong time. And then how Beatrice remembered Marissa over twenty years later after having had only one real conversation in high school (this also comes into play with another person in the story, but I don’t want to spoil too much. ) Finally, there were a ton of spelling and grammar errors, making me wonder if Ms. Bathey had anyone proofread it before letting it go to print.
Overall, it was a sweet story and had a fairy tale feel of pure decadence and hedonism. I wouldn’t mind meeting someone like Beatrice, who could help me relieve the stress in my life and make all my dreams come true (most of them have, but there are still a few lurking in the corners). I also see myself as a “Beatrice” to the people I care about, by trying to find ways to bring good things into their lives. I will say that reading this book inspired me to buy a dress I probably wouldn’t have looked at otherwise. And if this were to be made into a movie, I would cast Kristin Chenoweth as Beatrice. I think it would be a cute, “feel-good” chick flick if some of the sappiness was removed.
What would you do if your arch nemesis from high school suddenly moves across the street from you? And you happen to be still holding a grudge after all those years? Meet Marissa Lyons, a stay at home mom, and divorce, living a pretty boring and routine life. She observes the women (very much like the Stepford Wives) and homes of Vista Heights, all dressing and looking the same, blah and dull. Marissa happens to see a woman moving into the house across the street from her, and guess who it is? Beatrice Munson, her high school rival. She has hated her all these years because she stole away her first crush. Marissa swallows her pride and walks across the street with cupcakes to welcome her into the neighborhood. It turns out Beatrice is a totally different person. Starting with Bunko game night at Beatrice's house, she slowly transmits just a little bit of her magical persona into the women. When the women started raising families they stopped following their dreams, but with a bit of Beatrice's push their dreams become alive again. Friendships are formed, romances marriages are strengthened, and we see a few romances blossom.
Beatrice can be compared to a modern day Maria from the Sound of Music. Just as Maria brings joy and laughter to the children's lives, Beatrice breathes vivid color, excitement and sparkle into those around her, from her passion and love for life. Because of Beatrice's little pushes, each woman finds her way to true happiness.
Lorena has an incredible way with her use of adjectives and imagery. When she describes the smells of food (one of the characters opens a bakery), my mouth starts to water. When she describes the interior of Beatrice's home, be it the first time we go inside with Marissa, or at the various parties she throws, it's as though I can actually feel the soft pillows and see the vibrant colors EVERYWHERE. At times though, there was a bit too much description. I wish there was a little more plot to balance it out.
I absolutely devoured this book. Lorena teaches us the power and importance of friendship. Sometimes friends are there for you more than your family, because true friends really "get" you. I laughed, cried and found myself wanting my own Beatrice. She would visit me when I'm being lazy and stubborn, and not taking the bulls by the horn; she would then give me a good kick in the butt. Beatrice teaches us that we have to keep our dreams at the forefront of our minds, and not let them sit on a high shelf in our closet getting all dusty. The following quote by Louisa May Alcott sums it up perfectly:
“We all have our own life to pursue, our own kind of dream to be weaving. And we all have some power to make wishes come true, as long as we keep believing.”
If you ever feel life is passing you by, or you happen to be in a rut, and are staying with it because it's comfortable (who wants to deal with change and uncertainty?)...then you will love this book. I think I just described about everyone.
I'm very much looking forward to reading more from Lorena Bathey.
Good news: "Beatrice Munson" is currently 99 cents for Kindle!
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