Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Book Review: The Wishing Hill

By Miriam Plotinsky

Whenever life gets boring and I wonder where my next big rush is coming from, I remember this ancient curse: may your life be exciting. With excitement often comes drama and trauma, and perhaps a few mundane days or weeks trumps being in a state of upheaval. In Holly Robinson’s The Wishing Hill, protagonist Juliet Clark’s life gets turned upside down when she has to leave her job (and recently estranged husband) in Puerto Vallarta to care for her ailing mother, Desiree, in New England.

What sets Desiree apart from most mothers is that, as an actress, she lacks most of the natural warmth and nurturing that Juliet has needed her whole life. Instead, Desiree embodies whatever role suits her best in any given situation. Exasperated but practical, Juliet sets about trying to be an effective caretaker for an impossible woman. Tangled into the conflict is Claire, a next-door neighbor who is harboring some pretty explosive secrets about Desiree, Juliet, and the past. And if that weren’t enough, Juliet is pregnant and single, and while her changing body’s demands grow increasingly tiring as the days go on, Desiree is so self-absorbed that she fails to notice what Juliet is going through.

While good male characters grace the pages of the novel, this book is mainly concerned with women and the lies they tell for reasons that may or may not be necessary. Without getting too specific (why ruin the book?), Juliet is the victim of a lifetime of scheming. Her character isn’t as distinct or memorable as Desiree’s, but that makes sense, given her mother’s overbearing sense of entitlement. As for the meeker Claire, who is roughly the same age as Desiree, she provides a good foil for the drama queen next door.

The Wishing Hill is absorbing. As the book continues, layers of deception gradually become exposed, and watching the characters react to that process is intriguing. After all, while we’re leading our boring lives, it’s fun to live vicariously through a more dramatic series of events. Still, I’d rather be cuddled up with a good book and my kids without much happening than be cursed with a life that’s just a little too exciting.

Thanks to Penguin for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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