Thursday, January 28, 2010

Review: The Next Thing On My List by Jill Smolinski

The Next Thing on My ListThis is exactly the kind of book I enjoy - light, funny, real and with some deep-running undercurrents.
The realness of it all was probably the best part. So often in fiction everything happens just like the protagonist plans it, a couple of snags along the way but in the end all dreams come true. Here things do work out, but not quite how June thought she wanted them to, which in itself is so real. She wants to date the hot guy who appears to want to date her, but... as soon as she tells him about her plans to adopt a baby fire turns to ice and he's not so eager any more. A teenager pregnant after a one-night stand, a child preparing to have a child; she is so grown up in planning to quit her regular classes and thinking about the realities of having to take care of a baby but at the same time she gets thrilled at the prospect of make-up and new clothes. A thirty-something woman seething in her cubicle when she gets passed over for the promotion she was waiting for. A middle-aged woman hiding the pain of losing her daughter and the fears of not being able to mend the ties behind the tough facade of a biker. A couple who have been trying to have a baby for years and who must face that nothing is working, leaving them broken-hearted and exhausted. The guy who at first comes across as extremely obnoxious and even disgusting turns out to be a genuinely good person, even if rough around the edges. The best of it though for me was the last chapter, when June has finished someone else's list and is beginning her own, beginning her own life after years of going with the flow and not taking her life into her own hands. She's sitting there and she still doesn't know what to put on that list, what it is she wants. She's just like so many of those of us who are great at following instructions but not necessarily writing them, even for ourselves. And yet she's gotten a taste of what it's like to finish something and what it's like to keep trying regardless of how far this trying takes her out of the cocoon of her comfort zone so she writes something down and surprises even herself with what it is. She'll do it too, I know it.
There's plenty of laughs in this book. In fact I giggled through it, all the while thinking about these people who inspired June and Deedee and Bob and Troy and Marissa. They're out there, eating at restaurants, driving cars, making mistakes and trying new things. To me fiction is life, disguised as make-believe for the benefit of entertainment but it's all real, it all happened somewhere to someone to some degree. Even if the story is undeniably fantasy, there's real people in there underneath the blue skin and fur and antennae. Here Ms. Smolinski simply didn't go as far as antennae, she stopped at making them all real and you know when an author has done a good job when the next morning you're still thinking about the twists and turns and the outcome. I finished the book last night. Today mid-morning my text to a friend read "I still can't get over June and Martucci and that the girl didn't even call her to tell her she decided to not give up the baby!!". Enough said.

1 comment:

  1. I just finished the book 2 weeks ago, and I happened the same as you when I finish, the big question why June and Martucci??... I loved the book and I love your review, you have all reason there are few books that leave you thinking for several days on it, also happened to me with "Dear John" by Nicholas Sparks which I recommend even if the end is half annoying (my opinion) you can watch the film that just premiered but it's never the same as read.