I had never read one of Susan Mallery's books, but after reading Already Home, I won't hesitate to pick up another. I don't know how many times I've mentioned that I read for character. Mallery's characters sparkle. That's the best word I can use for characters that attract attention the first time you meet them. Mallery gives depth and life to all of her characters, not just Jenna Stevens, the protagonist. Jenna's family members and friends are just as well-developed. I will admit, the two villains of this piece are one-dimensional, but the other characters shine.
At thirty-two, Jenna Stevens moved home to Georgetown, Texas after her marriage failed. Once a successful, creative chef, her marriage to a chef had eroded her confidence and destroyed her self-esteem. In a rash moment, she signed the lease on an empty building, planning to open a kitchen shop. She was just lucky and smart enough to hire Violet Green to work with her. At least Violet had retail experience, something Jenna woefully lacked. Together, they would ultimately be unstoppable. "Jenna had class and money and something to prove, while Violet knew how to make it, no matter the odds."
Actually, the odds were stacked against both of them. Jenna's confidence was so low, she was afraid to cook or experiment, the one thing that could attract people to her shop, Grate Expectations. She knew nothing about operating a store. She did have supportive parents, Marshall and Beth Stevens. Violet, on the other hand, had known little kindness in life. She was the daughter of the town whore, a woman who sold her daughter at the age of fourteen, and regularly abused her. Violet escaped, only to support herself on the streets until she could get a GED and move on. But, she was still haunted by her past. And, neither woman had faith in their abilities to pick good men, based on their past experiences.
So, picture a small kitchen shop where the two women are just starting to get the hang of working together, two insecure women. There's a great conversation when Violet suggests that Jenna has everything, a perfect life. It's a matter of perspective. Jenna's response? "Excuse me? I'm getting a divorce, my husband cheated on me, I've just turned thirty-two, I have no kids, I own nothing, and if not for you, my business would have failed." It's a moment that brings the two of them closer when Violet admits, "When you put it like that."
Want one more thing to disrupt life? One day, Jenna's birth parents, aging hippies named Serenity and Tom, walk into the store, hoping to get to know the daughter they gave up at birth. It's a meeting that will change everyone's lives, Jenna, Beth and Marshall, even Violet's. And, so much changes in a novel filled with laughter, tears, and love.
I loved the characters in Susan Mallery's Already Home. I cheered for success for Jenna and Violet. I enjoyed Jenna's mother, Beth, and her relationship with her husband. And, I admired the two men who appeared to be part of long-term relationships for Jenna and Violet. If the only weakness in this book were two male characters, that's fine. The two villains were eventually pushed out of the the women's lives. I couldn't resist Susan Mallery's Already Home, with its sparkle and joy, despite the past. Read this one when you want to see good women triumph.
I have been a library manager/administrator for over 30 years, in Ohio, Florida, Arizona, and, now, Indiana. Winner of the 2011 Arizona Library Association Outstanding Library Service Award. I am a contributing Book Reviewer for Library Journal, Mystery Readers Journal, ReadertoReader.com and VibrantNation.com. Winner of the 2009 and 2010 Spinetingler Awards for Best Reviewer. First Fan Guest of Honor for Desert Sleuths Chapter of Sisters in Crime, Write Now! Conference.
It's an honor to be asked to review books, and I'm grateful to all the publishers, publicists, and authors who send me books. Thank you. Reviews will appear on my blog if I've had a chance to read, and finish, the book. If I do not finish a book, I won't review it, and I will not respond to emails asking when, or if, I'll be reviewing a book.
My reviews are only my opinion, and do not reflect the views of the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library.
I will not review self-published books, and, at the present time, do not accept books in e-book format.
1, 2, 3 ... By the Sea: A Counting Book
Book: 1, 2, 3 ... By the Sea: A Counting Book Author: Dianne Moritz Illustrator: Hazel Mitchell Pages: 36 Age Range: 3-6 1, 2, 3 ... By the Sea is a nice lit...
My Oct. 19, 2009 blog provides full disclosure that I only receive review copies of books, with no other compensation. All review copies are marked as such. If there any any questions, please feel free to contact me.