It seems as if I've been reading The Season of Second Chances for an age! I posted about it earlier in my reading, and I was finally able to finish it up yesterday during my lunch time. I would say I was probably more enthusiastic about this book earlier in my reading than I was by the time I finished.
A short recap:
Joy Harkness moves from NYC to Massachusetts to teach at Amherst. She buys a house, makes some friends (against her better judgement), has a heartbreaking relationship and an unlikely one, and eventually comes to terms with some of her issues.
Early in the book I enjoyed it purely for the discussion of Joy's home. The descriptions of remodeling her old Victorian were endlessly entertaining since I'm more or less addicted to the HGTV (Home & Garden) network. It was charming, warm, and delightful all the way around. When I wrote my first post I wasn't quite sure where Meier could take the plot, and I was pretty surprised--and not always pleased--with her choices in the latter half of the novel.
The Season of Second Chances is largely about feminism. Sometimes it was overtly stated and other times the discussion manifested itself in the internal struggles Joy grapples with and the choices she ultimately makes for herself. She's a very secluded character. She seems to think she'll diminish her intellectualism if she cares about her appearance too much or invests too much of herself in a relationship. She never invites students into her home even when it's obvious she wants to know them better, she resists her friends' attempts to be involved in her life or to involve her in theirs.
At one point Joy is having a discussion with her boss, a former power in the feminist movement and a highpowered academic and she thinks:
I looked at this internationally renowned feminist, with her published collections of writings and all her many honors, and I expanded my ideas about the reasons I admired her. This isn't what I thought feminism was about, years ago, but it seemed I was changing my opinions about a lot of things.In short, Joy didn't realize that women helping women, women being friends with women, women having families, and women "organizing" the world at large had anything to do with feminism. Her very narrow view was of feminists as academics, professionals, and hardasses.
While there were many parts of this book I enjoyed, the latter half was the weaker half for me. It was often heavy-handed in its messages, and a couple of the main characters were so maddenly self-UNaware, I wanted to strangle them. Joy was one of them, though she sort of wised up and lightened up in the end. Others, I wanted to kick in the crotch.
If I'd read this book faster, I'm pretty sure I would've liked it more. I probably wouldn't have been so bothered by the shift from all the cool remodeling in the beginning to all the "duh" self-realization in the end. On the whole, it was uneven, though I wouldn't call it a bad book. It was just OK.
I went into this book knowing absolutely nothing about the author, Diane Meier, but I have taken some time to research her. She's described as a style guru, a writer, a marketer, and a NYC powerhouse. I can see how a good deal of her experience could flavor the characters' lives and experiences throughout the novel. To learn more about Meier, visit her website. She's a very impressive woman.
Thanks to the good people at Interpersonal Frequency, LLC for sending the ARC.