“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.”
“[A] graceful and deft debut.”
“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.”
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.
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)
“Molly Ringwald understands how families work and uses her considerable talents to make them come alive on the page.”
“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.”
“When It Happens to You is an inventive and compelling portrait of love in the modern age.”
“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.”
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.