Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Book Review: Happily Ever Before

By Melissa Amster

Sisters share secrets. Sisters share jokes. Sisters share a history. Sisters share their womb. WHAT?!? Yes, you heard it correctly! At least that's the case with Grace and Clair Higgins, the leading ladies of Happily Ever Before, a modern day fairy tale by Aimee Pitta and Melissa Peterman.

When Clair finds out that her uterus is not meant for carrying babies, she is reminded of a pact she made with her sister, Grace, while getting drunk and watching Lifetime movies. Therefore, she asks Grace to be her surrogate. When Grace agrees, it leads to a lot of changes that affect their lives and the lives of their family members and friends, as she and Clair navigate the nine months of pregnancy together.

I definitely had a fun time reading Happily Ever Before. It was light and cute throughout. Both Grace and Clair were interesting and I enjoyed reading about how they contrasted. They reminded me of my sister and myself. (My sister would totally be Clair since she's all about neatness and organization.) There were a lot of pop culture references, which I always enjoy in a novel. And it definitely had the feel of a comedy film. The authors compared it to Baby Mama and Bridesmaids. However, I'd compare it to some comedies that came out earlier than those two films. It was like a cross between a Nora Ephron film (take your pick) and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The dialogue and interactions between characters was entertaining and never became stale. There were a lot of sweet and humorous moments, as well. And given that it's "Foodie" month at Chick Lit Central, there was even a baking aspect to the story. Reading about all the cookies made my mouth water. All of the characters were fun and likable in their own quirky ways.

However, a few things could have been looked over before going to print. The grammar and spelling were crying out for me to go over everything with a red pen. There's a difference between "to" and "too" and this seemed to be a major issue. I sometimes had trouble figuring out who was speaking. And they said "you know" in the middle of many sentences, which is one of my, you know, pet peeves. (Can you see why now?) There's also a mathematical issue, unless the story is supposed to take place about five years prior. Grace is supposed to be 35 in what is most likely 2012. If that is the case, there's no way she would have been 19 in 1991.

Aside from the technical stuff, there seemed to be a lot of toilet humor. However, I'll let it slide because I know the feeling of some of those issues, having been pregnant a few times. (Let's just say I used my favorite line from Billy Madison a lot, which is "If peeing your pants is cool, consider me Miles Davis." What?!? We're all friends here!) I also would have liked there to be more of a balance between Clair and Grace's perspectives. Grace seemed to carry the weight of the book as much as she carried the weight of her sister's baby. If they come out with a sequel, I hope Clair gets more "face time." Although this took place in Chicago, it didn't really carry a location feel. I wouldn't have minded more Chicago landmarks or something to make the city seem less generic. I'd recommend reading Stacey Ballis' novels to get what I'm talking about.

Overall, I enjoyed Happily Ever Before. It made me wonder if I would ever do something like that for my own sister. We're close, but that's definitely a huge emotional and physical sacrifice. (I'm still trying to lose the weight from TWO YEARS ago.)  The selfish part of me that is done having kids would say no. (I had enough "morning" sickness to make me NEVER want to become bulimic.) The generous part of me that would love to be a biological aunt (I'm already an aunt by marriage, but this would be different) and knows my sister would be an amazing mom, would say yes. I hope it never comes down to that question being raised though. If it did, I wouldn't mind being compensated the way Grace was, but I wouldn't go out of my way to ask for that. Maybe just a spa day or two...or three.

As I said earlier, this would make a great chick flick/romantic comedy film. In lieu of that, I cast the three main women in the story.

Clair: Lizzy Caplan
Grace: Rashida Jones
George (Grace's best friend): Kate Hudson or Busy Philipps

Alright, Hollywood...get to work!

Thanks to Aimee Pitta for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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