I’m here today with a review of my final August TBR book! I realize it’s September, but I had trouble reading this book my last week home in California because I was trying to enjoy time with my family. Still, I finished it last Wednesday, and am so glad I got through it, even if it’s a bit late.
My final book in my August TBR group is Me You Everything by Catherine Isaac. I’d heard this pick was a perfect summer read and, if I’m honest, the cover is so beautiful I really wanted to read it. Interestingly, this was Catherine Isaac’s first novel as Catherine Isaac (she previously wrote under the pseudonym Jane Costello) and it was her American debut. In a recent interview, Isaac discussed the widespread attention and praise her new novel received, noting that she attributes the change to 1) being released in America and 2) the change in marketing from very girly covers to a more “gender-neutral” style. I think the discussion was really interesting about the “chick lit” controversy.
Getting into the novel, it covers the story of Jess and William, a single mother and her ten-year-old son who are going to France to spend the summer with Adam, William’s absent father. The reason for the visit is attributed to Susan, Jess’s mother, who is suffering from an, initially, unknown brain disease. Susan believes that Adam and William need to have a better relationship, and it is her wish that Jess make an effort to get Adam more involved. Jess, still harboring a lot of anger from the demise of her relationship with Adam, is reluctant to go to France, but ultimately knows that William craves a relationship with his father and should have one. So, their arrival in France sets into motion the plotline of the novel.
I don’t want to provide any spoilers, but I do want to discuss what I loved about this read. First, I really enjoyed Jess. Some reviewers felt she was whiney at times or unwilling to give Adam a chance. While she does seem to hold a major grudge, I feel it’s warranted given the chain of events leading to their relationship’s end. I liked that Jess was raw and open with her feelings and put William first, no matter what. She cares so deeply for her son and wants to give him the best life possible, but acknowledges that life as a single mother is not easy and sacrifices are inevitably made. I will also say, if you read the book, give Jess some deference. Her motivations and strong convictions are a bit unknown or seem a little too harsh at times, but the underlying reason, when revealed, justifies a lot of her actions and feelings.
William, the ten-year-old son, is kind and loves his mother but is also struggling to find the balance between loving his mother and growing his relationship with his father. He seems to blame his mom for his father’s absence. At his age, it’s reasonable that he either wouldn’t know or wouldn’t want to acknowledge that Adam is very much the reason for Adam’s absence in previous years. Despite how loving William can be toward his mom, he is iPad obsessed, a phenomenon I imagine is quite common with younger generations.
Adam, the absent father, starts out quite unlikeable. At one point I had to put down the book for a moment because I was so annoyed by his utter lack of understanding of what it means to be a parent. Watching him disappoint William at times was heart wrenching and exasperating. Throw in a much younger girlfriend, who clearly believes Adam is more like the cool uncle who will do away with the ten-year-old son at the end of summer, and it makes for bumpy encounters.
There are a handful of other great characters in the book. I loved how the characters were written because they all felt real and raw and genuine. Sometimes characters come across flat or the main characters are strong but all background characters feel like they fit a mold to serve the plot. This story felt like just that: a story about a group of real people trying to navigate life when it isn’t going as well as hoped.
This story was much deeper than I expected after receiving the “perfect, light summer read” review from a fellow blogger. I told my roommate recently that a lot of the books I read recently had harder, deeper aspects than I imagined. But I think that’s because life isn’t easy. While it’s easy to find the happy-go-lucky, minimal hardship books, I don’t typically reach for those. I like a read that is gritty, that gets into the details of life that make it harder. The endings usually feel sweeter when you weren’t sure the characters would make it to the point you wanted.
I highly recommend this book! Once I hit a particular point, I was reading 100 pages a night (after full days of law school) because I just could not put it down. I had many internal “just one more chapter” debates. If my review isn’t enough of an enticer, it was announced that the book was optioned by Lionsgate for a film!
Up next on my TBR is my August Book of the Month pick, Goodbye, Paris!