Saturday, April 20, 2013

333 (2013 #17). Another Piece of My Heart

by Jane Green

At 37, Andi finally meets the perfect man.  Ethan is divorced with two daughters, teenager Emily and pre-teen Sophia, and has custody of them most of the time.  Andi has always wanted to be a mother and loves having an instant family.  Emily, though, is not so thrilled about her father's remarriage, and creates challenges for this blended family.

I won enough copies of Another Piece of My Heart to distribute to my book club, and we discussed it at our last meeting.   This isn't the type of book our group typically chooses - we tend to gravitate towards literary fiction, historical fiction and narrative nonfiction.  However, members felt that even though it read "like a soap opera in the beginning," most of us "actually liked it by the end."  In fact, one member thanked me for introducing her to a new author - she's since read two other books by Jane Green!  She said she felt this book "covered every facet of society," from divorce to stepparenting and blended families, to alcoholism and drug abuse.

One member felt aspects of the story were "very lifelike," even Emily's behavior.  Ethan was "sort of a wimp," with Emily "taking advantage of him," and Andi was "really trying."  Another said she was "frustrated with the relationships" between the characters, and felt the family's two gay neighbors were "more like counselors."  Another felt there was a "convenient plot twist" involving Emily, and yet another that the "ending was a little unbelievable."

One member described the book as "kinda Nora Roberts-y" at first, but "not chick-lit - more serious issues, similar to Jodi Picoult."  We all agreed with the latter similarity.  We also agreed that there could be another book with these characters - Sophia in particular is a little too perfect and will probably suffer some angst as she gets older.

It was interesting to learn that Green has personal experience with blended families (although this book is NOT her own story!).  Green noted in an interview that once a parent remarries, it destroys "the fantasy that the biological parents will reconcile," and takes "more of that parent away from a child who has already experienced serious loss."  That's certainly the case with Emily, whose birth mother is an alcoholic at the beginning of the book.

Part One of the book is called "Andi" and is written in third person from her viewpoint.  Parts Two and Three, "Family" and "Parents" respectively, include chapters with Emily's viewpoint in first person.  In the same interview, Green said, "The book took off for me once I took my editor's suggestion and started writing in Emily's voice — it gave me such understanding and empathy for her character. If anything, I think I ended up preferring Emily to Andi, which I hadn't expected at all."  I didn't prefer either character, finding them both whiny and selfish, but I did have a little more sympathy for teenager Emily rather than the supposedly-adult Andi.

One member who couldn't attend our discussion wrote the following, which rather sums up our feelings:

It was "fluffier" than books I prefer but there was much reality to the situation. Step families have problems more often than not. Fortunately not always as serious as the issues portrayed in the book.

Thanks for signing us up for this. I enjoy reading books from time to time that are not necessarily ones I would choose. 

We used a few of the ReadingGroupGuide.com's discussion questions and shared some personal experiences with divorce, parenting, and blended families.  We enjoyed the opportunity to read a genre we might not normally choose, and thank Bookreporter.com for the chance to do so!

As for me - while this isn't normally a book I'd choose either, I enjoyed Jane Green's writing.  I'm willing to read another of her books - and I will be, as I won yet another in a contest!

© Amanda Pape - 2013

[Would you like to get free copies of Another Piece of My Heart for your book club to discuss?  I have a number I can send one lucky group, if you and members of your group will agree to post comments or feedback about the book and/or their discussion on one or more of the following:
  • Jane Green’s Facebook page 
  • Your personal Facebook page, Twitter account or blog. 
You also need to agree to pass the books on to others for free, or donate them to a library or other charitable group.

E-mail me at chick_a_deedd at yahoo dot com and tell me the number of members in your book club.  First group to respond with the number that matches the quantity of books I have wins, and I will send the books to you for free by media mail rate.  Contest open only to residents of the USA.]

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