Thursday, April 5, 2012

Book Review: Tales from the Yoga Studio

By Becky Gulc

"Tales from the Yoga Studio" is the debut novel by Rain Mitchell, the first book in a planned series. So, what’s the synopsis?

‘Yoga. A spiritual journey. A way of life. A chance to meet the friends you've been waiting for.

At the beginning, it's all about the exercise. But for five of the women who take yoga classes at Edendale Studio it's soon about more than sharing tips for the perfect Downward Dog. It's about their hopes, fears and dreams.
Katherine is falling in love, but terrified of screwing it up again and Graciela is determined to prove her critical mother wrong - although she'll have to prove herself right first. Imani's life has been shattered by a heartbreaking truth, while yoga teacher Lee loves to help everyone else, but is she truly happy? And they're all worried about Stephanie, who seems to have disappeared ...
So it comes as a shock to the women when Lee announces the studio is closing. Is it really namaste for Edendale - or can these now close-knit friends find a way to keep their beloved yoga class alive?’
(Courtesy of Amazon.)

So the book involves five main characters; not all of them are friends, but what brings them all together is the yoga studio which Lee runs in California. Lee is known locally for being an amazing yoga instructor, and being a very nice woman indeed, to the point of sometimes putting the needs of others above the needs of her now struggling business, much to her husband’s dismay. Lee is separated from her husband when we first meet her.

Each of the central characters is experiencing some kind of relationship difficulty of their own, which we learn more about as the book progresses. Difficulties include being a recovering addict; being in a controlling relationship; bereavement issues and work pressures, just to name just a few. I enjoyed getting to know all of the five characters; each one of them had an interesting story to be told and I definitely got the sense there could and would be more to come in later books, particularly in terms of the potential of Graciela’s story.

I thought this book was a pleasant read and I enjoyed reading all about the world of yoga, as it seems to have been rarely (if at all) touched upon in fiction before, giving it a unique feel that makes this book all the more enjoyable. I’ve attended yoga classes occasionally in the past, so could relate to some of it. However, by no means do I think you need to be a huge yoga fan to enjoy this book. I imagine that if you’ve always thought about trying yoga, but never have, this book would encourage you to give it a whirl.

Probably the most interesting storyline for me personally, was the exploration of Lee’s move to a chain of yoga studios. I would have liked to see this storyline go further than it did as there was a lot of potential for humorous scenes. The book is advertised as providing a humorous read, I personally only felt this element of the story provided humour and that was fairly limited. This didn’t bother me as such, I just didn’t feel this description necessarily matched the book I was reading.

Sometimes it was hard to feel fully empathetic with the characters. With five characters, their stories became spread a little too thin and it was hard to keep track remembering who was who in the early stages. Having said that, I enjoyed following each one of their stories and the fact that I would have liked to delve further into their worlds is a positive sign. Also, you know when you pick this book up that it is the first in a series, so if that’s kept in mind from the beginning you almost anticipate you’ll go on to read the next book once this becomes available and find out more.

My main niggle was in terms of editing. The book has three main sections but no chapters in-between. Psychologically, I like to finish a chapter before bed so this didn’t sit comfortably with me.

All in all, I would recommend this book, particularly if you enjoy series books and enjoy getting to know characters a little at a time. It’s a very interesting insight into the world of yoga and Rain’s enthusiasm for it comes across throughout.

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