Customer Reviews for

The Season of Second Chances

Average Rating 3.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

Smart Women's Lit

The Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier tells the story of Joy Harkness and the new chapter she faces in her life. Leaving behind her relatively solitary existence in New York City as a professor at Columbia, Joy heads north and takes a position at a Massachusetts u...
The Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier tells the story of Joy Harkness and the new chapter she faces in her life. Leaving behind her relatively solitary existence in New York City as a professor at Columbia, Joy heads north and takes a position at a Massachusetts university. The novel chronicles Joy's transition to her new life and the self discovery that accompanies the transition.

Without acknowledging that she wanted or needed to, Joy leaves behind her NYC existence and is suddenly confronted with all kinds of complications to her previously straightforward life. Despite her best efforts to remain aloof, she is embraced by a group of friends and the rhythm of their reliance on each other. To many, this instant community would be welcome but to Joy it feels claustrophobic and she struggles to feel comfortable at weeknight dinners and daily lunches with her new friends. Joy reflects on the difference between her life in NY and her life in Amherst:

My time in New York hadn't exposed me to people who let you see their most intimate or ardent inner lives. I do remember thinking that life at Columbia was devoid of people of goodwill and benevolence. And I remember thinking that they must have had their kind and sweet human emotions removed before they took their jobs, or perhaps the pressures of their academic bred it out of them. Here in Amherst, in contrast, every day seemed to bring another heart onto another sleeve.



Along with new friends, romance also enters Joy's life. Actually, as opposed to the friends who she seems to feel have thrust themselves upon her, romance is welcomed in by Joy. She makes, in my opinion, some unwise choices in the romance department and these choices result in additional complications. Teddy, one of the men with which Joy becomes involved, is enmeshed with his overbearing mother and this limits his ability to fully be in a relationship with Joy. For all his emotional immaturity, Teddy also sees through Joy's aloof exterior to her fears and weaknesses and their relationship brings even more self revelation for Joy.

My assessment:
This book is excellent - it is smart and well written and the characters are complex and interesting. As much as Joy may not seem to always be the most likeable character, I think there is a lot readers can relate to in Joy's struggle to make changes to her life and the discomfort she feels with the changes. The book certainly gave me much to consider.

posted by Booksnyc on May 11, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

not quite what I expected

This is the story of Joy Harkness, a university professor who led an empty life-camouflaged by a successful career-and finally took the opportunity to change it and learned to live more fully. The cover and the synopsis attracted me to this book; however, the opening ch...
This is the story of Joy Harkness, a university professor who led an empty life-camouflaged by a successful career-and finally took the opportunity to change it and learned to live more fully. The cover and the synopsis attracted me to this book; however, the opening chapters did not hook me. The author's writing style took some getting used to, as it was full of comparisons I could not relate to.

I debated if I wanted to continue reading it, and I stuck to my rule of reading the first fifty pages. As I continued reading, it suddenly got interesting and I finished it easily. I have mixed feelings about this book. I liked the changes that took place in Joy, the way she took a chance doing things she never would have done before. The best part for me was seeing the transformation of the old run-down Victorian house she bought and how this represented the changes that were taking place within her and her life. It's true there is a lot of description in this book, some of which I found necessary in reference to the house and others which I did not.

I thought the minor character of Bernadette was given too much place in the story when I would have liked to see more regarding Donna and her family. The children seemed to have adapted too well (with almost no repercussions) to witnessing their mother being bludgeoned to near-death by their father, and none of this was explored in the story. It seemed too unrealistic to me, almost as if it was concocted merely to advance the plot. I was also not impressed that Joy's friends encouraged her involvement with Will, a shallow man and obvious womanizer.

What irked me about Joy's behaviour was the casual use of sex, rendering it simply an act of physical attraction rather than an expression of intimate and profound love between a committed couple. She fell into a relationship with her emotionally stunted mamma's-boy handyman, Teddy Hennessy, and I had a hard time figuring out what their relationship was based on. They reminded me of two teenagers, but then again, seeing how they were both missing the mature emotional growth that comes during later adolescence perhaps this was a reflection of that.

The writer in me tells me that there is much underlying in this book, but I was distracted throughout and could not relate to any of the characters. I did like the ending, though, and it was perfect for this story.

posted by Laura-Fabiani on June 21, 2010

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  • Posted May 11, 2010

    Smart Women's Lit

    The Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier tells the story of Joy Harkness and the new chapter she faces in her life. Leaving behind her relatively solitary existence in New York City as a professor at Columbia, Joy heads north and takes a position at a Massachusetts university. The novel chronicles Joy's transition to her new life and the self discovery that accompanies the transition.

    Without acknowledging that she wanted or needed to, Joy leaves behind her NYC existence and is suddenly confronted with all kinds of complications to her previously straightforward life. Despite her best efforts to remain aloof, she is embraced by a group of friends and the rhythm of their reliance on each other. To many, this instant community would be welcome but to Joy it feels claustrophobic and she struggles to feel comfortable at weeknight dinners and daily lunches with her new friends. Joy reflects on the difference between her life in NY and her life in Amherst:

    My time in New York hadn't exposed me to people who let you see their most intimate or ardent inner lives. I do remember thinking that life at Columbia was devoid of people of goodwill and benevolence. And I remember thinking that they must have had their kind and sweet human emotions removed before they took their jobs, or perhaps the pressures of their academic bred it out of them. Here in Amherst, in contrast, every day seemed to bring another heart onto another sleeve.



    Along with new friends, romance also enters Joy's life. Actually, as opposed to the friends who she seems to feel have thrust themselves upon her, romance is welcomed in by Joy. She makes, in my opinion, some unwise choices in the romance department and these choices result in additional complications. Teddy, one of the men with which Joy becomes involved, is enmeshed with his overbearing mother and this limits his ability to fully be in a relationship with Joy. For all his emotional immaturity, Teddy also sees through Joy's aloof exterior to her fears and weaknesses and their relationship brings even more self revelation for Joy.

    My assessment:
    This book is excellent - it is smart and well written and the characters are complex and interesting. As much as Joy may not seem to always be the most likeable character, I think there is a lot readers can relate to in Joy's struggle to make changes to her life and the discomfort she feels with the changes. The book certainly gave me much to consider.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 31, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    DIANE MEIER CHALLENGES AND ENTERTAINS IN AN IMPRESSIVE DEBUT

    Do you ever wonder how many go to New York City looking for success and excitement? Next query - how many find it? Joy Harkness did not. She had long nurtured a dream of going to Manhattan as "a way out of Saint Louis." Some 17 years later she tells us, "It takes a keen eye to tell a false start from a dead end. I was finished with New York."

    To many Joy's life was enviable - she'd been at Columbia University for 12 years, received a full professorship and published a book of poetry. Yet she remained isolated with few friends or involvement in the greater community or, for that matter, in life. Joy doesn't hesitate when she's offered a teaching position at Amherst College and the opportunity to be a part of a group working toward changing teaching methods. She sells her apartment, packs her belongings, and goes.

    Although determined to remain in her self-styled cocoon, removed from others, Joy is immediately embraced by her office mates, and urged (dragged might be a better word) to take part in social activities in which she has no interest.

    What does Joy care about? A recently purchased aged Victorian home in much need of repair. That had been a spur of the moment buy and quite unlike anything she has ever done. And, she cares about Teddy, a handyman who turns her relic of a residence into a warm, inviting home.

    Teddy is one of the most appealing characters to be found. A boy/man in gimme cap and shorts he is caught in a dysfunctional relationship with his mother (a thin lipped harridan), is a genius at renovation and repair, has an unerring eye for color and decor, an encyclopedic knowledge of historic homes, and an innocent, honest concern for others.

    As Joy is unwillingly drawn into the happiness and travails of those around her she begins to learn how to relate, how to genuinely feel for others. This evolution is described with both insight and humor, whether she is fending off the advances of the Coyotes (male faculty members with an eye for someone new) or trying to care for four young girls who patiently teach her the importance of a pastry bag and how necessary it is to keep hair conditioner on hand.

    THE SEASON OF SECOND CHANCES is an empowering, entertaining story reminding us of the importance of home, family, and trust. It is, at times, an invitation to step outside of our familiar boundaries and perhaps discover what we may yet become.

    As Joy reaches her home after an especially busy day she looks at the windows "glowing from within,' and comments, "There was life in this house, and I was a part of it." We can rejoice with her, and learn.

    Enjoy!

    - Gail Cooke

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 30, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Review from www.beachbrights.blogspot.com

    I actually did not want to review this book. I told them that I did not have time to read nor was I a good writer. They did not listen. I told them that I only review decorating books (with lots of pictures) and that my blog readers don't want to hear about fiction novels. They did not listen and sent me this book anyway. I am so glad that they did not listen to me and now you need to listen...

    Have you ever read a book that at the end of each chapter you would count the pages of the next chapter just to see if you had time to keep reading? I just finished The Season of Second Chances and my world stopped for two days. For two days I did nothing but sneak a chapter here and sneak a chapter there. I was hooked and hooked hard!

    The Season of Second Chances is a story about Joy Harkness a 48 year old literary professor who is asked to take a new job in a new town. Joy thinks nothing of moving and finds herself buying and restoring a rundown Victorian. In comes Teddy Hennessy, the town's handyman, to help Joy restore her new home. I was surprised at my feelings of trust toward Joy. When I realized that her vantage point could not always be trusted, I found myself mad at her and emotionally invested in her well-being. But more than these two characters, Diane Meier writes a story that is clever and funny. It is a story of personal growth, taking chances, finding your way in life and when tragedy strikes Joy and her new friends, this becomes a story about family.

    My favorite quote from the book comes from Joy "But my vantage point was perhaps, too close to the shore to see that I had, at last, begun to swim toward my own life" (page 162).

    My mind was like a movie, playing out each eloquently written sentence, scene by scene. Even now my mind still drifts to Joy and her life. I was left wanting more and will continue to follow Diane Meier.

    I loved this book and so will you.

    A special thank you to Evelyn Frison & Diane Meier for allowing me the opportunity to read this story from my mind and heart. This book was given to me by Evelyn Frison in exchange for my honest opinion.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 25, 2010

    What a lush read!

    I was captivated from the first few pages; the storyline was captivating.

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  • Posted March 25, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    an interesting character study

    Forty-eight years old Columbia University literature professor Joy Harkness leaves the city for a position at Amherst to escape her solitary lifestyle and her dozen years of torture at Morningside Heights for what might prove a fascinating program. She sees herself giving up little for a new start.

    Joy euphorically moves to Western Massachusetts where she buys what would be kindly called a fixer upper. She hires much younger handyman Teddy Hennessy to work on her Victorian. As she eludes the campus coyotes, Joy and Teddy begin to date, but his martinet mom objects.

    The Season of Scond Chances is an interesting character study of a forlorn academia as the lead jumps at starting over. The ironically named Joy begins to find herself at Amherst because the locals will not allow her space to crawl back into her solitary shell of distrust. Although Teddy's mom comes across as a stereotype of Mommy Dearest over the top of the Berkshires, readers will appreciate the middle age professor seeking her groove.

    Harriet Klausner

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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