Readers' Favorite

October 12, 2020

The Outlook for Earthlings by Joan Frank ~ a Review

by Susan Roberts

"The outlook for Earthlings was not good, as it turned out - not good at all, and all of Shakespeare and the saints and poets  too, couldn't change that  None of us, thought Scarlet, could give her the larger hope, against the inexcusably shitty learning curve of a wretched species." (p 227)
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The Outlook for Earthlings
October 2020; Regal House; 978-1646030071
ebook, print (237 pages); women's fiction
The Outlook for Earthlings
traces an unusual, difficult friendship across a lifetime, between women of stunningly opposite natures. Melanie Taper is timid, compelled to obey and venerate authority. Yet in unguarded moments she demonstrates such deadly insight into human foibles as to suggest a strength that has, for dark reasons, deliberately hidden itself. Scarlet Rand, by contrast, is rash, willful, and impatient of reverence of any stripe. Scarlet is shocked by Mel's passive reserve; despite her obvious gifts, Mel is—bafflingly—self-erasing. Mel's saintliness maddens Scarlet—because finally and most troublingly, Scarlet disbelieves it. Their friendship suggests to each a final frontier, a saving sanctuary. Yet at its core, a pained impasse soon becomes evident: each woman takes a secret, moral offense at the other's inmost nature—and choices. Living out these differences—against awareness of the illness which is slowly destroying one of them—proves an ultimate challenge. In each, a reckoning must occur. The Outlook for Earthlings examines what women want, amid conflicting layers of need. It ponders beginnings, endings, and Virginia Woolf's declaration that good angels must be killed. It considers the limits of friendship—and of the act of witnessing. At its heart, it asks how we may finally measure a life—and who should do the measuring.  (Goodreads)

My opinion

Melanie and Scarlet met in high school and were lifelong best friends. Like many long term friendships, theirs had good and bad times.  Deep down they each questioned the others' attitude and life decisions but they remained friends and shared their deep secrets with each other. The reader is able to see them at their youngest and near the ends of their lives thinking back on the past. Their friendship is interesting because their mindsets about life and the men in their lives are totally opposite but even so they remain friends  Scarlet realized too late that friendship was about support not about judging personal decisions. Overall, I thought that this was an intense look at female friendship and its importance in women's lives.

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About the author

Joan Frank is the author of ten books: eight of literary fiction and two essay collections. Her recent books are WHERE YOU’RE ALL GOING: FOUR NOVELLAS and TRY TO GET LOST: ESSAYS ON TRAVEL AND PLACE. A MacDowell Fellow and recipient of many honors and awards, Joan also reviews literary fiction and nonfiction for the Washington Post. Find out more about Joan.

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina with her husband of over 50 years.  She grew up in Michigan but now calls North Carolina home. Since her travel plans had to be canceled for this year, she is starting to make plans for travel in 2021. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and historical fiction. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter.


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  1. great title. does make me curious and it sounds interesting
    sherry @ fundinmental

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed this! Thank you for being on this tour. Sara @ TLC Book Tours