March 26, 2012

Book Review: Four of a Kind by Valerie Frankel

At First Sight: Alicia doesn't know what to expect when she's asked to join the Diversity Committee of her son's prestigious private school in Brooklyn Heights; but she's soon thrown together with Bess, a rich, blond princess; Robin, an abrasive, jewish single mother and Carla, a religious african-american doctor.

No one, not even Bess - the Committee's instigator - is sure what they are supposed to be doing, so they find themselves playing cards and sharing secrets - in a game they call Brooklyn Hold'em - and they slowly start to become friends as they lives start to change.

Bess is having trouble with her teenage daughter Amy, and she has never seen eye to eye with her ultra-feminist mother Simone, who is repulsed by Bess' decision of being a stay-at-home mom. And her loving, wonderful husband Borden seems a little too fixated on sex.

Robin used to be morbidly obese and only lost the weight when she got pregnant and even though she's now skinny as can be, she has a hard time connecting with people - even her own daughter -  and makes up for it with a string of casual dates that go nowhere.

Alicia is stuck being the sole provider for her family since her husband Tim lost his job at the beginning of the recession. They haven't had sex in ages and she's starting to fantasize about a younger co-worker.

Carla is struggling her with dissatisfaction at work and at home with her husband Claude who doesn't seem to have much faith in her and likes to complain and mope until Carla does whatever he thinks best.

These four women don't have much in common, but every other week they find themselves together, playing poker and making their lives easier and more complicated.

Second Glance: From the cover and the first summary I saw of this book, I kind of expected it to be a bit on the fluffy side. Some light-hearted chick lit.

But, though I believe it is chick lit, it wasn't exactly light-hearted. The problems these women go through sound quite realistic and I was fascinated by the fact that all the characters did things that made me like them and then not like them, but I kept caring about what happened to them. And they sounded their age, too, which I liked.

The book is told from the points of views of each of the four women, and each one was quite distinctive, the tone of the writing changing to suit the person it was following, and I appreciated that I never had to wonder in what section I was because the tones were so different from one another.

Bottom Line: Four of a Kind had it's ups and it's downs, as did their characters, but it was a rather enjoyable read, for all that it wasn't fluff, and that there were plenty of references to sex and unhappiness and dissatisfaction. All in all, I liked following these women as they found themselves and each other and became friends and I think I would like to read more of this author in the future.

Favorite Quote:
"The choices we made, the long-forgotten decisions, the painfully unforgettable ones, were the framework of our lives, thought Alicia. All of her choices and decisions had brought her to this moment in bed with Tim. When you looked at life that way, it was hard not to blame yourself for you own unhappiness."

Bess appeared in the vestibule between the two front doors. Her yellow hair shone under chandelier light. She was luminous, really. And I don't hate her for being beautiful, thought Robin. How could that be? It must be real friendship, the kind that transcended petty jealousy.

"Being bad feels pretty fucking excellent, doesn't it?" asked Robin.
"Please don't curse," said Carla. "And yes. It does."

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