Breakdown Lane
  • Breakdown Lane
  • Breakdown Lane

Breakdown Lane

3.8 22
by Jacquelyn Mitchard
     
 

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Giving advice is what Julieanne does for a living - every Sunday she doles it out to clueless people she doesn't know, in a column in her local Wisconsin paper. But when it comes to her personal life, Julie herself seems to have missed some clues. Having worked creatively to keep her twenty-year marriage to Leo fresh and exciting, she is completely caught off guard…  See more details below

Overview

Giving advice is what Julieanne does for a living - every Sunday she doles it out to clueless people she doesn't know, in a column in her local Wisconsin paper. But when it comes to her personal life, Julie herself seems to have missed some clues. Having worked creatively to keep her twenty-year marriage to Leo fresh and exciting, she is completely caught off guard when he tells her he needs to go on a "sabbatical" from their life together, leaving Julie and their three children - Gabe, Caroline, and Aury - behind. But it soon becomes clear that his leave of absence is meant to be permanent. The succeeding months are filled with a confusion and sadness that shake the core of the entire family. Things take a turn for the worse when Julie is diagnosed with a serious illness and the children undertake a dangerous journey to find Leo - before it's too late. As the known world sinks precariously from view, the clan must navigate its way through the shoals of love, guilt, and betrayal. Together, with the help of Leo's parents and Julie's best friend, Cathy, they work their way back to solid ground and a new definition of family.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Julianne Gillis Steiner, mother, and advice columnist, is well aware of the challenges in keeping a marriage fresh. Faced with the usual domestic day-to-day events, she becomes suspicious when Leo, her husband of 20 years, seeks a "sabbatical" from their married life, leaving the family for six months and promising daily phone calls. Shortly after Leo's departure, Julianne is diagnosed with a serious illness. Although this novel could have easily become a maudlin disease-of-the-month book, Mitchard (The Deep End of the Ocean) handles the various themes of abandonment, illness, and family disappointment with finesse. Chapters begin with Julianne's advice column; son Gabriel, angry and bitter, writes the alternating chapters as journal entries. Learning-disabled Gabriel, the most skillfully drawn character, is the heart and soul of this story, indicating that Michard certainly has an empathy for teens. Despite the family's trials, this is an optimistic novel and is recommended for most popular collections.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“[Mitchard] takes emotional family events and makes something fresh yet familiar about them...”
BookPage
“...An intriguing study of a quintessential American family...[a] thought-provoking, introspective novel.”
Life magazine
“Mitchard dissects feelings of loyalty, betrayal and guilt with such aplomb, the book moves along like a thriller.”
Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel
“THE BREAKDOWN LANE takes the reader on a journey of love and loss, self-discovery and synergy, a satisfying story.
Associated Press
“[Mitchard’s] tale of an imploding American family will rule the beaches this summer.”
Washington Post
“From our petulant, prideful heroine to her sullen-yet-saintly son, each character’s complexities shine...”
Capital Times
“Mitchard’s work...is filled with vivid characters who live out loud, and in vibrant color.”
Associated Press Staff
“[Mitchard’s] tale of an imploding American family will rule the beaches this summer.”
No Source
“I dare you to read Breakdown Lane and not adore its quirky, all-too-human cast of characters. With her ear for language and artist’s eye for detail, Jackie Mitchard will take you on a journey through loss, hope, and every kind of love there is.”
Life Magazine
"Mitchard dissects feelings of loyalty, betrayal and guilt with such aplomb, the book moves along like a thriller."

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060587246
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
04/05/2005
Pages:
400
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.25(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Breakdown Lane LP

Chapter One

Genesis

Excess Baggage
by J. A. Gillis
The Sheboygan News-Clarion

Dear J.,

I'm getting married next summer, to a man of another nationality. Both families are very happy, but there is a problem. His many female relatives -- aunts, grandmothers, and sisters -- must sit in the front row, as is their right. As descendants of the Masai in Africa, they are very tall. My family is Japanese-American. We are small -- in number and in size. My father is only five feet four, my sisters less than five feet. The wedding will take place in a hotel ballroom with chairs set up in rows. We did not want to have a "bride's" side and a "groom's" side, because we want this to be a true blending of families. However, I know that the women in my fiancé's family are going to wear large, decorative hats (I don't mean ceremonial headdresses, as these are African AMERICANS of many generations, but what my fiancé refers to as "church-lady" hats, which are the size of our wedding cake). This will make them even taller, and so no one except my mother and father will be able to see me during the ceremony. I don't want to suggest that they "move to the back of the bus" for my family. So how can we avoid slighting anyone on our special day? Given the disparity of heights, the wedding dance will also be very awkward.

Nervous in Knudson

Dear Nervous,

This is a matter of some sensitivity, since tensions on a wedding day can leave a bitter taste that can linger for years. But nerves? You've already probably got the once-in-a-lifetime jitters every bride endures. Don't add this small opportunity for creativity to your checklist of stress. With the same joy of life you've already demonstrated by your beautifully bold choice to mingle cultures, craft a circle of joy. Ask the staff at the hotel to place the wedding chairs in a wide circle with the first row reserved for the principal members of both families and the rest of the chairs in staggered rows behind, so that each person, regardless of heights, will enjoy a wonderful view. Guests will be escorted through a small opening, the same place your groom will enter with his parents, a few moments before you enter with yours. Make the altar or other ceremonial platform in the center "a round," also -- perhaps exchanging your vows facing in one direction, conducting the ceremonies of rings or candles facing the other, with the transitions gracefully made to instrumental music or song. As for the dance! No one feels awkward at such a happy affair! Think of all the aunts and grandmas you've seen dancing the polka in groups of five!

J.

Let's begin at the end of the beginning. The first moment of the second act of our lives.

It was ballet class. It was the second class of the week, made up of dance combinations and mat Pilates. Steady on the studio floor, I was ready to begin my final stretches. I remember that, a wonderful feeling. I was spent, but pleasurably, my hips not so much aching as aware they'd been asked for something strenuous. This class, and my weight training were the times during my week I felt freed from strain, just shy of pure.

I extended my right leg along the floor in its customary turnout -- posturally correct, erect on my sitz bones, a little bit smug, but trying not to glance around me to observe that other women, even younger women, noticed the way my flexibility still came easily -- and leaned forward for the hamstring stretch.

What I saw when I looked down horrified me so much that my mind scrabbled away from me, across the birchy floor.

What was it?

Numb shard of bone? Foot clawed birdlike, in spasm?

Worse. It was ... nothing.

Nothing was different than what I'd seen when I sat down five seconds earlier. It was only my leg, my ordinary leg in the unsoiled glove of my unitard (the silver one my youngest daughter used to call my "mermaid clothes") still bent in a forty-five-degree angle at the knee, my pointed toe nestled against my thigh.

Doesn't sound like much, does it?

You have a right to expect more of terrors. Sharp, single shriek on a silent street. Pea-sized lump your finger grazes as you soap your breast. Tang of smoke in the still air, footsteps' rhythm matching your own, in the dusk of an empty parking lot. A shadow that jumps against a wall in a room in which you know you are alone.

But think! A thing so huge it will dismember your world can be invisible. It can be a germ. A scent. It can be an absence.

You see, I had felt my leg open smoothly, like a knife with a well-balanced mechanism. But it had not.

A cascade of thoughts, like the fountain from a child's sparkler, showered over me: the phantom limb phenomenon, the precursor to a stroke, a paralysis caused by some virus. My first instinct was to scream. Instead, like any sane person, I tried again.

My leg refused.

Metallic, icy sweat burst from my pores, bathing my face and neck, painting gleaming half-moons under my breasts. I dampened like a true mermaid in my "mermaid's clothes." From the corner of my eye, I glanced at my friend, Cathy, who took the class with me, as her arms branched and she arched down over her own leg. Her eyes, closed in concentration, suddenly flipped up, like one of those old venetian blinds, as if she'd heard a crack, a clap, as if I truly had screamed. She looked at me, quizzically, one eyebrow a beckoning finger. I grinned ...

The Breakdown Lane LP. Copyright © by Jacquelyn Mitchard. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Meet the Author

New York Times bestseller Jacquelyn Mitchard's novels include The Deep End of the Ocean, Twelve Times Blessed, and The Breakdown Lane. She is also the author of The Rest of Us: Dispatches from the Mother Ship, a collection of her newspaper columns. She lives with her husband and six children in Madison, Wisconsin.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Madison, Wisconsin
Place of Birth:
Chicago, Illinois
Education:
B.A. in English, Rockford College, 1973
Website:
http://www.jacquelynmitchard.com

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Breakdown Lane 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although Julieanne offers helpful advice via a weekly column in a local newspaper, she was oblivious to the warning signs that her own twenty-year marriage was about to collapse. When her husband, Leo announces that the pressure of domesticity is weighing him down and needs a six month 'time-out' Julieanne pleads with him to reconsider. He doesn't. He takes off, with the empty promise of returning in six monts, to a commune far away from home. He doesn't even leave a forwarding address. With the recently acquired status of single parent and breadwinner of three (two teens and a toddler) Julieanne is stressed beyond belief. That stress is followed by puzzling medical symptoms that are soon diagnosed as MS. The reader goes along on the journey with this family guided by the voice of Julieanne and her mildly disabled teen son, Gabe. Gabe's voice will touch any mother's heart. He's been victimized by his peers due to his LD but the reader quickly learns that Gabe possesses depth and sensitivity and intelligence that would make any mother proud. When his mother becomes too ill to properly care for baby Aury, Gabe steps up to the plate without complaining. We don't get Julieanne's daughter Caroline's perspective through her own voice, but we're made aware that Caroline seems too self-absorbed to be affected by the unraveling of her family. Later, we learn that Caroline was simply using the only coping skills she could access during the most troubling and confusing time of her life. Caroline concocts a plan for damage control: go to the commune and fetch the father who deserted them. Surely once he finds gets a first hand account of the terrible troubles at home, he'll come running back, shame-faced and begging for forgiveness. Dad, however, is none too happy to see his two offspring. He's already started another family with a younger woman. Amazingly, this family bonds together and with the help of a family friend and new rich husband for Julieanne, there's a happily ever after for everyone. Even baby Aury. A touching read, which Mitchard tied up nicely at the end.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Page turner. I could not put down the book. I read this book in 2 days.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Page turner
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A very heart warming book, filled with ups and downs in the family life of writer that ends up with MS. Learning to live again after things fall apart, but never giving up and a happy ending. I lovedthe two perspectives, Jules and Gabes in the journals that they kept. What a family endures and goes thru, capitvated me and kept me engrossed. It was so real like to me as if I was reading in secret or watching from the outside looking in.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
I actually picked up this book on the recommendation of--don't laugh!--Stephen King. As one of the ten books he recommended for late summer reads in an issue of Entertainment Weekly Magazine, the premise hooked me.

The book centers around a woman who not only loses her husband to a wacky desire to live a simpler and more-fulfilling life, but has to single-handedly raise two teenagers and a young daughter by herself, all while dealing with her diagnosis of MS.

THE BREAKDOWN LANE is women's fiction at its best. I actually enjoyed the two first-person accounts that make up the book (it's in the form of a journal belonging to the mother and one written by the son). Although it does end up with a rather happily-ever-after ending, this book details life in all its ups and downs--and you'll appreciate being along for the ride.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I actually picked up this book on the recommendation of--don't laugh!--Stephen King. As one of the ten books he recommended for late summer reads in an issue of Entertainment Weekly Magazine, the premise hooked me. The book centers around a woman who not only loses her husband to a wacky desire to live a simpler and more-fulfilling life, but has to single-handedly raise two teenagers and a young daughter by herself, all while dealing with her diagnosis of MS. THE BREAKDOWN LANE is women's fiction at its best. I actually enjoyed the two first-person accounts that make up the book (it's in the form of a journal belonging to the mother and one written by the son). Although it does end up with a rather happily-ever-after ending, this book details life in all its ups and downs--and you'll appreciate being along for the ride.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've red most of her other books and loved them. As someone with MS, I was very keen to read this one, but found it disappointing. Some aspects were poorly researched (particularly the treatments used), which let down the bits that were on the mark for MS. I found myself more attracted by interplay of the other characters, especially the children, than the main character. She came across as more flat and one dimensional, defined pretty much by her disease. The development of the other characters was more interesting to me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was interested in reading this book after hearing from fellow readers that the main character deals with MS. I am a person with MS and I found that she protrayed the MS in a positive way. A person with MS does not do well with stress of any kind. I felt as if she had used parts of my life as research for this book. Many people with MS are diagnosed shortly after something very stressful has happened in their life. I can only hope that this book will help people better understand the illness. One moment you can be fine and the next unable to think correctly, walk, sight can be affected as well as speech. Thank You for this information.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading the back of the book I thought I would be amazing. Lackluster to say the least. I wasn't thrilled to say the least. Actually managed to finish it though and then I gave it to a friend may be they can appericate it cause I can't
Guest More than 1 year ago
I simply couldn't put this book down. I could identify with nearly every character in this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Few authors plumb the depths of human emotion as deftly as Jackie Mitchard (Was there a dry eye at the conclusion 'The Deep End of the Ocean'?) Once again she explores the nooks and crannies of love, family and human relationships in the story of Julieanne Gillis. Actress Anna Fields does a superb job of occupying two narrative voices, that of Julieanne and her learning disabled teenage son, Gabe. As Julieanne, she is torn, angry, brave and resilient. With Gabe she gives voice to a young man who is forced to learn very early what can happen when a marriage not only bends but breaks. Married for 20 years to Leo, a not terribly successful lawyer, Julieanne has given birth to three children, two now in their early teens, the third just out of babyhood. She dispenses advice through a column in the local newspaper in their Wisconsin town. She's happy, devoted to her children, and her friends. Sorry the same can't be said for Leo. Think selfish, inconsiderate, or to put it more bluntly 'a real loser' and you have a pretty good picture of him. Seems he's decided he wants to take a break from hearth and home to live in a commune. Off he goes leaving Julieanne and the children behind. He doesn't even leave a forwarding address. When Julieanne is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she has no idea how she can continue being a single parent. Gabe, a son any mother would love, and his sister take off in search of their errant father. 'The Breakdown Lane' is both riveting drama and eloquent reminder of the mysteries of love. - Gail Cooke
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book and couldn't put it down. This is one of Jacquelyn Mitchard's best books yet. It keeps you on your toes wondering what's going to happen next with this woman's life and her family. What a strong woman.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Plan on skipping meals and staying up late!!!! Jacqueline Mitchard has created a BLOCKBUSTER story, about a family of lost souls. Julieanne Gillis, a sweet Wisconsin housewife with a too-comfortable marriage and three kids, makes a meager living writing an advice column for a local paper. Blinded by the great advice she gives so freely to others, she fails to see the daily boredom that oozes from her own husband's pores. Once a ravishing dancer, she suddenly finds herself ravaged by a crumbling marriage and a tsunami of disease; Multiple Sclerosis. Her oldest children must leave Wisconsin to find their deadbeat dad, only to find themselves in the process. This riveting novel has many detours and 'breakdown lanes,' and like real life, runs the gamut of emotions. GREAT, GREAT READ!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was so engaging, I did not want to put it down. The story is of ordinary people facing major challenges, except in 'The Breakdown Lane' all of them hit at once. Julianne is a successful advice columnist; she has a home and a family and a life that seems to be going smoothly along on cruise control. But she suddenly has the rug pulled out from under her and she finds herself without a husband, raising 3 children alone, and being diagnosed with a devastating illness that will literally knock her flat. Although difficult, none of these challenges are insurmountable by themselves. But Julianne has everything dropped upon her at once, and when the dust clears, she is alone and the horizon looks very dark. This book is not depressing; it is funny and poignant, sad and uplifting.I attribute this all to Ms. Mitchard's ability to craft a story that is realistic and believable. Her characters' voices are real. Her writing is right on the mark with dialogue, and her insight into Julianne's feelings is touching and true. I found myself wanting to shake her cad of a husband, and hug her son Gabe when he reaches down inside himself to help her. This novel is like a jigsaw puzzle that was finished, and then knocked off the card table. It gets put back together, but some of the pieces are missing. The puzzle is the same, the picture just looks a little different. This is an excellent book. I enjoyed reading it and know it will make a great selection for my book discussion group. I highly recommend it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The storyline is slow and sad..... if you are an active attentive dad you will hate this book - the father is complete loser / deadbeat scum and the wife/mother is an enabler of the first order - neither of whom have the childrens best interests in mind or heart - wraps up neatly and quickly and for once I was grateful for this type of ending - it was the best part.