Adult,  Big Book

The Patchwork Marriage

Jane Green
Andi has spent much of her adult life looking for the perfect man, and at thirty-seven, she’s finally found him. Ethan–divorced with two daughters, Emily and Sophia–is a devoted father and even better husband. Always hoping one day she would be a mother, Andi embraces the girls like they were her own. But in Emily’s eyes, Andi is an obstacle to her father’s love, and Emily will do whatever it takes to break her down. When the dynamics between the two escalate, they threaten everything Andi believes about love, family, and motherhood—leaving both women standing at a crossroad in their lives…and in their hearts.
I actually really enjoyed reading this but as I come to write the review I fear it might sound a bit negative!  I did have many moments in the story when I was frustrated with the characters and wanted to give them a piece of my mind.  A bit like shouting at the telly I suppose!  However I was drawn into the plot and the family dynamic.  Having worked with young people and spent time talking to many about life in step families, I felt that the views and feelings at the heart of this were incredibly common and though it may not be a realistic account of blended family life it resonated with my experience of hearing those teenagers stories.
As it says in the burb above Andi and Ethan are married and Andi is step mother to Emily and Sophia.  Sophia has accepted the situation but Emily is doing everything in her power to make life difficult.  She is an intelligent child and seems to know she has her father at her finger tips, manipulating him to get her own way in every situation.  Andi feels neglected and impotent to deal with this as Ethan seems unable to stand up to his ‘little girl’ as he copes with the guilt of the divorce and all that came with it.
Things are further complicated by the fact that Andi would dearly love to have a child of her own and has been unable to do so.  Ethan has refused to consider adoption and Andi’s anger and hurt are looking for a channel!  The pressure on Andi and Ethan’s relationship is at breaking point as they are unable to find a way to manage any of these issues effectively.  Throw into the mix further problems from Ethan’s ex-wife who is an alcoholic, Emily’s lack of friends and Andi meeting a handsome engaging man and think; is it any wonder things aren’t going well?!
The characters in the story are generally very self-centred; the focus is on their needs.  On the whole they seem to be unable to see someone else’s point of view or understand how their actions might make things worse rather than better.  I know that we are all selfish deep down but they seemed so blinkered sometimes.  Ethan seems completely incapable of seeing Emily’s manipulation; Andi can’t see that having a baby would probably be the last straw for everyone.  Although it has to be said I thought Ethan really dealt with whole situation totally unfeelingly.  I did have sympathy for the characters, being childless when you want a child is terrible, making up to your child for putting them through a difficult divorce is totally understandable, but they just could not communicate effectively with each other.  The naivety on both sides in creating this knew family was blindingly obvious.
I did like how the novel was told from the perspective of many of the different characters.  This worked particularly well in building up a picture of Emily as seen through Andi’s eyes so that she seemed completely awful and then hitting a chapter from Emily’s standpoint that made you completely re-evaluate her.  There was that lostness in her, and also recognition of her inability to control her temper and that Andi often wasn’t so bad but Emily just can’t help herself.  A real teenager!
I also must mention that my favourite characters were the two gay men who lived next door.  Their dinner parties sounded amazing and often they were the only ones who spoke any kind of common sense at all!
As the story develops things become more complicated and I can’t tell you more or it’ll be a spoiler!  But it is interesting that even though there is some resolution this is not a happy ending type fairy tale. Even so in some ways it was too tied up for me, after all the messiness of their lives there is a lot to work out and some of the resolutions found I didn’t like, some of it is too convenient. 
Verdict: On the whole this is a good reflection of the imperfectness of family life and the difficulties faced by blended families.
Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: June 2012
Format: eBook
Pages: 416
Genre: Chick Lit, Family
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: None

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