"THE NEWPORT LADIES BOOK CLUB: Olivia," by Julie Wright, Covenant Communications, $16.99, 212 pages (f)
Olivia is in a relationship with a problem, but she's not entirely sure what is the source the rift between her and her husband as they tiptoe around what the real issues could be.
The 42-year-old mother is busy with serving and raising her children, along with dealing with her less-than-supportive mother-in-law and reaching out to children from her husband's first marriage. During a walk one evening as she's mulling her problems, she finds a flier about a book club.
"Olivia" is the first of four in the "The Newport Ladies Book Club," published by Deseret Book and Covenant Communications, each one from the perspective from four members of the book club and each by a different author. Olivia is a mother who likes to please. Daisy is in her mid-40s, about to be a grandma and her youngest about to graduate from high school when an unexpected pregnancy throws a curveball into her life. Paige, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is newly divorced with two young sons and has recently moved to the area for a new start. Athena is a self-proclaimed bachelorette to avoid getting hurt, but tragedy strikes in her family and she has to sort out what love is.
"The Newport Ladies Book Club: Olivia," by Julie Wright, portrays Olivia's dysfunctional marriage relationship in exhausting detail. Olivia and her husband avoid each other, and when they do have conversations, they never get to the core of things in increasingly frustrating and maddening encounters. The times when Olivia attends book club are similarly exasperating because of her near-neurotic social anxiety and lack of self-confidence.
Predictably, the women in the book club support each other through trials. Also predictably, this support consists of listening and feeding each other. The only thing that seems unpredictable is Olivia’s husband, whose mood swings make him a little more human than most male neglector characters. While Olivia’s development into a more confident woman is a relief, her mid-novel insights into her own perfectionism and spousal neglect are sadly unexplored.
Women in book clubs seem to enjoy reading about other women in book clubs, and the books have many fans of the “main character enjoys a good cry” variety. It’s perfectly acceptable to enjoy this kind of fantasy, as long as readers recognize books like this one for what they are — a fantasy.
For more information about the series, see thenewportladiesbookclub.blogspot.com.
Rachel Helps is a graduate school dropout with a passion for old books and video gaming and a bachelor's in psychology. She blogs about gaming at at thepretentiousgamer.blogspot.com.