Title: WHY CAN’T I BE YOU?
Author: Allie Larkin
Release date: February 26, 2013
Age Group: Adult
Genre: Women’s Contemporary Fiction
Links to the book:
From the author—
WHY CAN’T I BE YOU takes its name from a 1987 hit song from English rock band The Cure. All her life, Jenny Shaw toed the line, striving to be the perfect colleague, girlfriend, and daughter – a path that has led her to an unhappy (though successful) career, a failed relationship, and all-but-severed family ties. On her way to the airport for her first business trip, she is unceremoniously dumped by the man she thought she would one day marry. In her haze of shock and confusion, she responds to the wrong name when Myra Aberly, organizer of Seattle ’s Mt. Si class of 1999’s thirteenth high-school reunion, shouts “Jessie!” across the hotel lobby.
In an instant, Jenny Shaw becomes Jessie Morgan, a woman to whom she bears an uncanny resemblance. She is immediately embraced by Jessie’s warm circle of friends – and gains a possible love interest. But when Jenny becomes more and more curious about Jessie’s history, she uncovers a trail of secrets, pain and deceit that inspires her to uncover the truth that will heal her own painful past.
I don’t often read what is frequently called “women’s fiction”, mainly because I spend so much of my reading time on genre fiction and also because I tend to resist that term and the other one that I find almost deprecating, “chick lit”. Let me say I have similar feelings about terms such as “men’s fiction”, especially when it’s portrayed as being so much more worthwhile than fiction for women. To me, it’s terribly short-sighted and demeaning to imply that women don’t enjoy stories that include action and violence and that men can’t enjoy tales with feelings and romance and even a little fluff. Years ago, a male customer in my bookstore announced very loudly that he never read anything by or about women because such books were not worth his time. I was appalled; his wife was clearly ashamed to be seen with him. I also had women customers who wouldn’t even try mysteries any more edgy than cozies. My point here is that this great divide is not just media flapping its gums but some readers also fall into their expected patterns.
So what made me want to read Why Can’t I Be You? The description got my attention, the bit about pretending to be someone else because, be honest, who among us has not at some point wished to be someone else? I also liked the cover and, yes, I DO sometimes judge a book by its cover.
I’m happy to say taking a chance on this was a great success. I really enjoyed this book, both the storyline and all the characters, every one of them, even the lout who dumped Jenny at the airport. Well, actually, there is one character I could not love but I’ll leave it up to you to ferret out which one that might be and how you connect to all these characters. My heart bled for Jenny, not so much because of her boyfriend’s behavior but for the real long-term pain in her life. I also understood how she could respond the way she did to the mistake Myra made because sometimes it’s just so much easier not to correct people’s errors, especially when it initially seems to be inconsequential.
What really pulled me into this tale, though, was the relationship among these men and women who had not only maintained their friendship after high school but had nurtured it, allowing it to grow into real love from one to another. When Jenny becomes Jessie, that inconsequential response becomes very consequential indeed and the repercussions will have life-long effects.
This is the first book by Allie Larkin I’ve read but it certainly won’t be the last. She is a writer who truly has a way with prose and I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent with her characters and their stories. Many men would also find this very appealing, especially the bonds between the men in the group and between Fish and his dad. When all is said and done, this is a story of taking a chance on possibilities and finding one’s self. I have to admit to rampant curiosity, though—why is there no question mark at the end of the title??
Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2013.
Allie Larkin is the internationally bestselling author of the novel Stay, and the just-released novel Why Can’t I Be You (2013). She lives with her husband, Jeremy, their two German Shepherds, Argo and Stella, and a three-legged cat.
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