Jennifer Weiner is one of my favorite authors. Her characters are living, breathing creations that I can relate to and imagine having a conversation over coffee with them. I started reading her books five or six years ago with Good in Bed and I eagerly await each new novel.
Fly Away Home is a novel that sounds like it is ripped from headlines. Sylvie Serfer Woodruff has changed herself over the years into the perfect politician’s wife. Her husband, Richard Woodruff, is a high powered senator from New York with dreams of being the president. They have two daughters, Diana and Lizzie. Diana is a doctor with a seemingly perfect life with her husband and son, if you don’t count that fact that she doesn’t love her husband. Lizzie is a troubled twenty-four year old recovering addict who is trying to find her way in the world.
All of their worlds are changed forever when it is discovered that Richard had an affair with a young staffer and helped her to get a job. Without Richard to take care of, Sylvie realizes that she has not been taking care of herself. Diana realizes that she is more like her father than she thinks . . . as she is having a torrid affair with a young intern. Lizzie finds purpose in life by taking care of Diana’s son Milo and then her father Richard, who is lost without Sylvie. The book explores what it is like to be the woman who stands behind the man confessing his extramarital affairs at the podium.
I wasn’t sure at first that I would like this book, as I have politician scandal fatigue, but I loved the focus and character development of the three women. The story wasn’t really about the scandal per say, but about how these women discovered or rediscovered themselves and were able to move on from their experiences.
I did have a hard time connecting with Diana. I understood her drive for perfection, but to marry someone you don’t love or feel attraction for just to be married is something I really don’t understand or have sympathy for. I like how she also had to hit rock bottom to start to understand herself again.
Sylvie reminded me a lot of my grandmother who was very focused on my grandfather and not on raising her child. This caused problems for poor Lizzie in the novel as well as Sylvie when Richard was suddenly out of the picture. Lizzie had a variety of problems, and I loved her growth to a mature young woman throughout the book and her ability to put the problems behind her.
I also loved reading Sylvie’s back story on how she and Richard got together in the first place and how their marriage evolved to the point it was at. I just wish the book could have continued on, I wanted to continue the journey with these characters!
While the story was serious, Weiner’s trademark humor was every apparent and you can see below in my favorite quotes:
When Sylvie’s mother Selma is talking about her sex life with her father, Sylvie thinks, “Somewhere in the world, there was surely a conversation taking place that she’d less enjoy hearing. Trouble was, she couldn’t imagine what that conversation might be.”
Later in that same conversation Selma says, “I just wanted you to know that you never know what’s going on in someone else’s marriage, behind someone else’s bedroom door. Nobody’s perfect.”
I laughed out loud at this quote, “If your grandmother wouldn’t recognize it, don’t eat it, her nutritionist had said. Well, too bad, nutritionist, because Selma’s grandma would have recognized Crisco just fine.”
Overall this was a great character study and a hard book to put down. It tackled serious issues, but was relatable and had plenty of humor. I highly recommend it.
Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library