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September 23, 2021

The Spectacular by Zoe Whittall ~ a Review

by MK French

In 1997, Missy is the 21-year-old cellist for an indie rock band. She parties hard every night and plays the song about being abandoned by her mother that helped make the band famous. That mother, Carola, was recovering from a sex scandal at the yoga center where she lives when she sees Missy on the cover of a magazine. Carola's 83-year-old mother-in-law Ruth wants all the stubborn women of her family to reconnect.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

The Spectacular
September 2021; Ballantine Books; 978-1524799410
audio, ebook, print (368 pages); women's fiction

We meet Missy asking for a tubal ligation, which no doctor is willing to give her because she's 21. They cite her youth and the potential to change her mind and want children if she meets the right man, never mind that she's into casual sex and drugs as part of the rock and roll scene. Carola was in one community after another, seeking escape from herself and release from the responsibility that giving herself over to a cult leader can bring. Carola's mother excused a volatile husband, secretly looked into feminist ideas, and hid everything behind a veneer of cleanliness, religion, and traditional feminine values. Missy's paternal grandmother did the same to a point, but took her future into her own hands, and wanted to get the women to speak to each other again before she died.

Years later, Missy is married and in an emotional seesaw as she contemplates motherhood, a failing marriage, and her career. She isn't doing drugs or interested in the party scene anymore. Carola's still involved in retreats and doubts her ability to be a mother even though she can give great advice to people. It feels like they're recycling the same problems and issues that they had when younger, and are stuck in the same groove. The emotional seesaw is different as they've aged, however. 

Time has a way of smoothing things out a bit, and that gives distance from the intensity of youth. The love, relationships, emotional walls, and self-actualization occur when they open themselves up to the risk of getting hurt. Losses, whether from deaths, others committing suicide, or emotional distance, still occur; life is like that more often than not. But leaning on people for help isn't a weakness, and setting boundaries is just as important as the connections that people make. All of it is a choice, and this novel shows how the choices women make can have resounding effects not just for themselves, but for others around them. Embracing those choices and the people in their lives is the point in life, and I feel proud of Missy and Carola for their growth throughout this book.

Buy The Spectacular at Amazon

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever. 

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