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When It Happens to You: A Novel in Stories

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Overview

Molly Ringwald mines the complexities of modern relationships in this gripping and nuanced collection of interlinked stories. When It Happens to You follows a Los Angeles family and their friends and neighbors while they negotiate the hazardous terrain of everyday life.

In "The Harvest Moon," a stay-at-home mom grapples with age, infertility, and an increasingly distant husband. In "Ursa Minor," a former children's television star tries to rebuild his life after being ...

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When It Happens to You: A Novel in Stories

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Overview

Molly Ringwald mines the complexities of modern relationships in this gripping and nuanced collection of interlinked stories. When It Happens to You follows a Los Angeles family and their friends and neighbors while they negotiate the hazardous terrain of everyday life.

In "The Harvest Moon," a stay-at-home mom grapples with age, infertility, and an increasingly distant husband. In "Ursa Minor," a former children's television star tries to rebuild his life after being hospitalized for "exhaustion." In "My Olivia," a single mother finds untapped reserves of strength to protect her flamboyant six-year-old son, who wishes only to wear dresses and be called Olivia. And in the devastating title story, a betrayed wife chronicles her pain and alienation, leading to an eviscerating denouement.

An unflinching yet poignant examination of the intricacies of the human heart, When It Happens to You is an auspicious literary debut.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This “novel in stories” is set in the L.A. you see on television, the one where everyone is somehow connected to everyone else. Stories or titled chapters center on Phillip and Greta, who have a daughter, fertility issues, and a marriage going sour, but we also meet people whose lives touch Greta’s and Phillip’s in a variety of ways, like their much older neighbor; a mother at their daughter’s school; and a semi-washed up actor, his twin sister, and her French boyfriend. In many ways Ringwald (Getting the Pretty Back, a memoir) knows of what she speaks, having spent many years in the ’80s as a fixture of the Brat Pack, and she has the mechanics of writing down, but you can hear the gears grinding; the stories are often exposition heavy, the characters seem more defined by their situations than their idiosyncratic histories, and things tend to resolve a little too tidily, even when the point is the continuing messiness of relationships. As a result, this debut work of fiction, which reads well, never gets traction in your mind. It’s probably best seen as an example of one of celebrity’s mixed blessings: your name gets you in the door but your apprenticeship takes place in public. (Aug. 14)
Booklist
"[A] graceful and deft debut."
Vanity Fair
"With her assured and deftly wrought novel-in-stories . . . Ringwald plays out the all-too-familiar tragedies of adult life[. Her] stories ring with authenticity, voices so true and honest that we imagine she’s been eavesdropping on our conversations. Once again she connects us."
Kirkus Reviews
Everyone hopes that love will last forever, that only other people's loves will fail. But what if the unthinkable happens to you? Ringwald's (Getting the Pretty Back, 2010) debut novel employs a series of interlaced stories with a constellation of characters at different stages of life facing varied obstacles (many self-created) in the path of love. Among the characters fumbling to understand their own behavior and bewildered by the consequences of their actions is Greta. She and Phillip have built a secure, happy marriage, one that helps her endure the indignities of a third round of fertility injections and the difficulties of raising their energetic 6-year-old daughter, Charlotte. When Phillip confesses he has cheated on her with Theresa, Charlotte's 19-year-old violin teacher, Greta is staggered. She returns to her mother, Ilsa, who faces her own challenges in love, including her plan to take in Greta's drug-addicted nephew, Milo--Milo, who is so difficult that his own mother has run away to join a New-Age yoga practice. Ilsa challenges Greta: Doesn't everyone deserve a second chance? But Greta cannot forgive Phillip. As she tries to repair her life, Greta embarks on a relationship with the much younger Peter. Estranged from Greta, Phillip forges a friendship with Marina, whose son, Oliver, is a friend of Charlotte's. Oliver, however, likes to dress up in Charlotte's clothes, which leads to his being attacked by older boys. Ringwald deftly weaves together the threads of these stories, creating a tapestry that captures the emotional landscape of both young and well-worn relationships. Amid the dust of that landscape lies a sort of letter to Theresa, a letter that exposes the myriad emotions swirling in the aftermath of a betrayed love. This is a beautiful exploration of how the heart's irrational responses to love and betrayal can stand in the way of forgiveness.
The Washington Post
In her first novel…this queen of 1980s teenage angst…puts betrayal center stage. And she does it in a way that's as visceral as a girl's disgust when everyone forgets her 16th birthday…A large part of what makes this novel-in-stories so enjoyable is its structure, the way the connections between characters unfold from piece to piece. Each story could stand on its own, but they fit together to reveal links among these family members, neighbors and friends in Los Angeles…Ringwald weaves an emotional narrative that avoids getting bogged down in melodrama. With an economy of language, she keeps the story moving, taking readers inside characters' heads without leaving them there too long. Ringwald's storytelling succeeds as much on the page as her acting has done on screen.
—Lisa Bonos
—Booklist
“[A] graceful and deft debut.”
—Vanity Fair
“With her assured and deftly wrought novel-in-stories . . . Ringwald plays out the all-too-familiar tragedies of adult life[. Her] stories ring with authenticity, voices so true and honest that we imagine she’s been eavesdropping on our conversations. Once again she connects us.”
Lauren Groff
“When It Happens to You is absolutely lovely, a smart, emotionally sophisticated, intricately dovetailed novel of stories. World, I’m telling you now: Molly Ringwald is the real deal.”
Gary Shteyngart
“Molly Ringwald understands how families work and uses her considerable talents to make them come alive on the page.”
Robin Black
“These stories sizzle with rare insight about the reverberations of betrayal and of love. Ringwald wisely never judges her characters, but lets them live out their complexities on the page, flawed and endearing, recognizable and also new. When It Happens To You is an impressive fiction debut.”
J. Courtney Sullivan
“When It Happens to You is an inventive and compelling portrait of love in the modern age.”
Eleanor Henderson
“Molly Ringwald’s eight electric stories are alive with Joycean insight-piercing, epiphanic moments of terror, humor, and transcendence. Together they offer a deeply moving portrait of modern life.”
—Booklist
“[A] graceful and deft debut.”
—Vanity Fair
“With her assured and deftly wrought novel-in-stories . . . Ringwald plays out the all-too-familiar tragedies of adult life[. Her] stories ring with authenticity, voices so true and honest that we imagine she’s been eavesdropping on our conversations. Once again she connects us.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061809460
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/14/2012
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 1,268,149
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.32 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Molly Ringwald

Molly Ringwald lives and works in New York City and Los Angeles.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 40 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(19)

4 Star

(14)

3 Star

(5)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(0)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 40 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 22, 2012

    Loved it! A must read!

    I got this out of curiosity after seeing Molly on the Today Show and was happy to find that it's a fantastic book. The characters pulled me in right away, especially Greta and her situation (no spoilers). I really loved how the stories connected, and the characters would show up again but in the background or you'd see new different sides of them. Everything was very honest and real, both the bad and the good. I guess it's no surprise that Molly is a great storyteller!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 11, 2012

    Loved the book!

    Thoughtfully written in a winding way as we live our lives. Life is messy and the way the stories weave is exactly the way life is. Worth paying attention to the messages and lessons. Glad I read this one.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 27, 2012

    Reviewed by ONLY GOOD BOOKS

    Whether you read this book because you are curious about what the “Pretty in Pink” star would write or whether you are a novel-in-stories junkie like me, it’s worth a look.

    Although a somewhat snarky New York Times review by Dan Kois described it as “sort of bad,” I disagree. I enjoyed it. Is it a perfect book? No, but as a series of interconnected tales about betrayal, it’s absorbing. Here’s what I liked: The stories move us around and forward in interesting ways. The second-person title story packs a poignant punchline. Ringwald captures the perspectives of the major characters believably and with great compassion. Like most of us, the characters are flawed, but she finds ways to make us care about them. She also raises good questions about forgiveness, a topic we should probably all spend more time thinking about.

    It may not be Sherwood Anderson’s WINESBURG, OHIO or Elizabeth Strout’s OLIVE KITTERIDGE, but WHEN IT HAPPENS TO YOU will draw you in.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2012

    Beautifully written

    The writing is simplybeautiful and Molly captures the feelingd of the characters so well that anyone can empathize I hope that this is just the first of many becsuse it blew me away!

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2012

    Amazing book! A must read!

    Amazing book! A must read!

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 21, 2012

    Loved it!!!

    Great book! Loved the story line. Left you wanting more of Molly Ringwald!!!

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 14, 2012

    cant wait to read this book. Love all your movies Molly!

    cant wait to read this book. Love all your movies Molly!

    2 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2012

    WOW!!!

    I absolutley loved this book Molly!!! I could not put it down til i read every page! You even brought me to tears, wich i must say is a huge compliment because its not the norm for me to cry over a book. When phillip went to see his brother and broke down sobbing to him, i lost it. U had me rooting for them to work their marriage out, and i cant stand cheaters (men or women). Whats next? More books please!! WAY TO GO GIRL!! Lol

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2012

    Engaging

    Standard story of intertwining characters facing personal struggles. However, unlike many, Ms Ringwald not only provides interesting characters but also incorporates literary techniques that remind you that you're reading a work of art written by a true author, and not reading the diaries of some movie-of-the week characters that focuses only on describing emotional turmoil. I was engaged and look forward to more from the author.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2014

    Credible characters

    Molly Ringwald gets it right with most of her characters in this novel. Love how she intertwines it all, though the ending left me floundering a bit and wishing for a bit more closure with some of the characters. Good reading, though.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 6, 2013

    Good read

    I really enjoyed this book. It is a quick read as a finished it in only a couple of hours. I thought the idea of having the short stories & the characters being interconnected was interesting and creative. The ending seemed very unrealistic to me but that wouldn't stop me from giving 5 stars to this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2013

    Engaging but a little empty

    I really enjoyed this book for what it was. The stories were interesting and brought up interesting perspectives of love and relationships. My main complaint is that the characters seem very rigid--this is a novel in stories because many of them couldn't stand up to a longer format. The overall intended plot seems to drive the stories. I didn't get a good feel for any of the characters, and in many ways they were kind of the same. Each with quirky reflections about the world or linguistics or what have you, each sympathetic in their own way. Overall I enjoyed the book, and I was satisfied with how it came together at the end and some of the perspectives offered. I would recommend it to be read for what it is.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2013

    Very impressed with Molly Ringwald's story telling.

    Will recommended this book Look forward to futurem,longer novels.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2013

    When it happens to you

    I don't know what I am missing, but I did not like this book. I found it to be slow moving and after reading two of the stories I quit.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2013

    Def worth reading

    I was surprised at how well interesting and csptivating this book was. I didn't want it to end!

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  • Posted April 17, 2013

    Enjoyed a lot.

    Enjoyed a lot.

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  • Posted March 29, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Confusing

    The story line changed to many times. I got confused

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  • Posted March 29, 2013

    I really enjoyed this book. I got it out of curiousity and now I

    I really enjoyed this book. I got it out of curiousity and now I am off to find her other book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2013

    Wow

    Unlike many of the reviewers here, I didn't have any particular love for the author. So I went into it with a bit of cynicism. Boy, did Molly prove me wrong! She should have been sharing her writing talents all along. Loved and empathized with all the characters. Actually reread many sentences and paragraphs as I went along because they were so beautifully written and captured the human condition so well. Look forward to more of her works!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2012

    Molly Ringwald

    I love mollyringwald she is my role.model

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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