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From Elizabeth LaBan, the acclaimed author of The Restaurant Critic’s Wife, comes a captivating and very funny novel about a wife and mother’s fall from grace, and why keeping up appearances is not her biggest secret.
Tabitha Brewer wakes up one morning to find her husband gone, leaving her no way to support herself and their two children, never mind their upscale Philadelphia lifestyle. She’d confess her situation to her friends—if it wasn’t for those dreadful words of warning in his goodbye note: “I’ll tell them what you did.”
Instead, she does her best to keep up appearances, even as months pass and she can barely put food on the table—much less replace a light bulb. While she looks for a job, she lives in fear that someone will see her stuffing toilet paper into her handbag or pinching basil from a neighbor’s window box.
Soon, blindsided by catastrophe, surprised by romance, and stunned by the kindness of a stranger, Tabitha realizes she can’t keep her secrets forever. Sooner or later, someone is bound to figure out that her life is far from perfect.
|Product dimensions:||5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.40(d)|
About the Author
Elizabeth LaBan is the author of The Tragedy Paper, which has been translated into eleven languages; The Grandparents Handbook, which has been translated into seven languages; The Restaurant Critic's Wife; and Pretty Little World. She lives in Philadelphia with her restaurant-critic husband and two children.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
There was so much potential. A fascinating situation for a woman, to be abandoned by her husband without word, without a trace, with two bright, loving aware children, figuring out what to do next when there is no money, no job, no obvious next steps. What happened was the story. Adept prose for the most part was undermined by a hapless heroine who felt clueless and out of touch with the world, never mind herself. I wanted so much to like her, to root for her, but found myself wondering how on earth she ever coped, was ever present for anyone--and we're in her head, her life experience and still I didn't feel a connection. For much of the book there is a wifty, out of touch sense of character, although certain characters do ring true and likable: the helpful rabbi, the lovely Nora, the children. The story is set in a city, however, I didn't get much of a sense of that city at all, not the particularity of the way that it works and feels, so much of the time I was able to dub in my experiences in New York City and others rather than inhabit this world. I truly respect what this writer accomplished -- a smart story about a woman in an impossible situation, but I couldn't stop wanting more in terms of character development and evolution, sense of place. What would also be typical of a lifestyle that she once enjoyed are more household and other help (who would have to be let go) such as a housekeeper/cleaning service, someone to watch the children on occasion. Therefore, the evocation of how many lightbulbs are burned out (11 in one kitchen?) and how dark the apartment is feels strained and false; they wouldn't all go at the same time, not in two months. The new love interest is a puzzle as well -- ever understanding, kind, and generous in an impossible, dream-boy like way -- and why he had to be related to the lovely old woman is beyond me. As I stated at the outset, I was grabbed by the premise, curious to see how this heroine handled her tough situation but wound up being baffled by the way that the story was told. It could have been so much more than it turned out to be.
This is my first read by Elizabeth LeBan and I suspect it won’t be my last. Overall, this was a really good book, with some interesting characters. What would you do if you woke up after having a fight with your spouse and they were gone? Not just gone, but had left, with a note threatening that if you told anyone they left they’d rat you out on something you did. For most of us, we’d probably ignore the threat. If we had kids, we’d probably do the same thing our main character, Tabitha did and make up a story that “Daddy was away for work.” At least, until we could get ahold of the jerk and settle things. But most of us probably aren’t walking around with the kind of guilt this character is holding on to, which helps give the storyline some credibility. There’s also the image to maintain, which to me didn’t work. What did work for me was how Tabitha, who is a mother of two, was trying to keep it together for her kids. Being abandoned with two kids and no money is a pretty rotten thing to do to the person who you’re supposed to love, and even if you don’t love them, if you have kids, it’s downright horrible behavior. So yes, I loathed the husband who was absent for most of the book. I felt sad for the kids who could tell stuff was going on with their mom, but didn’t know what or how to talk to her about it. By all accounts, Tabitha is a pretty good, and normal person…meaning she’s not perfect. She’s made mistakes in her life. She’s had bad thoughts and isn’t always the perfect wife, mom, or daughter, but she tries. And really, that counts for a lot and made me like her and be sympathetic to her, even when I wanted so say, “come on, get real,” at times. Like when she spends $80 dollars at a pizzeria, but the fridge and cabinets are empty and she had just stolen four stuffed peppers from the food kitchen they had volunteered at. That money could have bought a lot of pasta and peanut butter at Wal-Mart. But I get it, she was tired and trying so hard to cheer her kids up. Most of the other things she does to survive were realistic, and I could see really happening. The scenes with Nora were a little hard to suspend belief over, but I did love the character and thinks she’s a good reminder that we shouldn’t underestimate the elderly. They’re sharper than most give them credit for and much wiser. Toby absolutely stole my heart. Yes, he made mistakes too. A really bad one that had I been his wife, I couldn’t have overlooked, but again, he’s human and he does regret his mistake. So lesson learned, move on, and do better. I’m okay with that. There’s a lot Tabitha has to deal with during this order, like figuring out what the threat is about, overcoming her guilt, and finding her inner strength to face the truth. No one is perfect, we all make mistakes, but the point is to learn from them and do better in the future. In the end, she became someone I could totally empathize with and someone I liked a lot. If you’re looking for a good women’s fiction book, with a cute romance and quirky, yet believable characters this is a good book for you.
This author had me hooked when I read The Restaurant Critics Wife. I was beside myself when I was approved to review this by NetGalley. When I started reading this, I felt instantly bad for the main character. Tabitha has 2 kids, her husband left and there is no money left. The kids are growing, they are hungry and she is becoming more and more desperate. I was seriously feeling uncomfortable reading this. I mean, it REALLY took me outside my zone. So much in here about survival, about reaching out when you need help, and redemption. Can you make up for the bad things you have done? Can you really make it better? I closed this book with a big smile of satisfaction on my face. It was a great story, and it really pulls you in. No matter how you feel about it.