Sunday, January 23, 2011
Book Review - "Friday Mornings at Nine" by Marilyn Brant
Jennifer has gotten an email from her college boyfriend David, which spurs her to wonder why he left her right before graduation. She's been married to another man for many years now, but she feels like only David really gets her. She determines to meet him and find out whether they really were meant to be together. Jennifer's "what if" question gets her two friends reflecting on their own marriages and on the possibilities that arise from their also meeting men who seem to "get" them more than their husbands do.
The ladies meet at a coffee shop every Friday morning to compare notes, though there are plenty of details they leave out. Their secrets and deceptions begin to come to a head at a neighborhood Halloween party, and they then must face not only their husbands and children, but themselves as well. What do they truly want from marriage and from life?
Jennifer, Bridget, and Tamara are three very different women. They have three different marriages, meet men under different circumstances and engage in different kinds of activities, and ultimately come to three different conclusions. None of the women is a caricature, yet I never quite totally identified with any of them. The events surrounding them, their choices, and the outcomes are not cookie-cutter, yet there is a certain lack of character development. It's almost, but not quite, like the author planned out the various ways in which affairs happen and in which marriages break up and then constructed a tale around those instead of first getting into her characters' heads and figuring out why they do what they do.
We do see each woman separately and then as a group. We do see what they choose to reveal to each other and some rationale for why they hide details or fudge the truth. But in the end I wasn't sure if Marilyn Brant meant to write chick lit or something more serious. I also wasn't crazy about some of the pop culture references because those quickly date a book, and the final fairy-tale chapters could have been written in the same style as the rest of the book. (Although fairy tales and fantasy do play a large part in the story, writing those chapters in that format made the book end up more cutesy and less weighty than it might have been.) Friday Mornings at Nine has its own identity issues.
That said, this book does still tackle the question of why women stray. These three characters may not be completely fleshed-out, but they are still compelling. Aspects of their stories will still resonate with readers. I'd recommend this book for clubs who want to talk about such personal questions without getting too literary or philosophical.