Starting Now: A Blossom Street Novel
“. . . a pleasant afternoon’s diversion. . . .”
Elizabeth Morgan’s day started off great: her expensive new haircut looked great, she felt at the top of her game, and the law firm at which she’d worked for the last six years was ready to make her a partner. She’d sacrificed any semblance of a social life and her marriage for this opportunity, and she was in the perfect position to revel in her success.
Until she was fired.
Now Libby has the opportunity to reshape her life, starting with shaping up and making friends, particularly amongst the women at the knitting shop on Blossom Street.
Debbie Macomber’s latest foray onto the quaint Seattle street isn’t much of a departure from her formula: woman at a loss, various social and personal crises, a love interest, and a happily ever after.
What Ms. Macomber does well in this outing is the creation of Libby. She’s quite charming in her neuroticism and sense of loss, as well as believable as she begins to carve out a new life.
Her relationship with her best friend is natural, and there is a genuine camaraderie between the characters. When Libby finds herself shocked at her enjoyment in knitting, or in the simple joy of rocking babies at the hospital, we are engaged by her, rooting for her. She is an everywoman who is relatable.
Where the book stumbles is in the sheer number of soap opera crises. Libby was orphaned by her mother and emotionally abandoned by her father at a young age. In a fairly brief period, she deals with teenage pregnancy, betrayal by a friend, gaining and losing an adoptive child, hospital crises, disappointing a friend, starting a business, gaining and losing clients. . . . It was just too much.
Most bewildering was the emotionally vapid relationship she develops with the hot doctor, Philip. They start out inexplicably hostile, trade odd jabs, and then they are in love. No explanation as to how or why, it‘s just presented as a given.
As Philip is a fairly underdeveloped character among many underdeveloped secondary characters, it is difficult to understand what draws these two together; in fact, it was almost a surprise each time he made his brief appearances, he was that forgettable. The exchanges between Libby and Philip were largely in the time-honored soap opera mold, overwrought “Oh John . . . Oh Mary” dialogue and all.
In contrast, Libby’s exchanges with her friend, Robin, are funny and believable. Ms. Macomber understands the often complex nature of a woman’s friendships, as well as the emotional language women use with their friends. Their relationship, despite the conflicts they encounter, is well developed and rational—even as the book itself floats to a fairy tale ending.
Starting Now is light on sex and language, heavy on drama and crises—and everything is wrapped up in a pretty bow at the end. For the reader in the market for an enjoyable, undemanding melodrama, this latest novel from Ms. Macomber offers a pleasant afternoon’s diversion.