- Fizzy Thoughts: The Rest of Her Life

The Rest of Her Life

Friday, August 21, 2009

rest of her life

The Rest of Her Life
Laura Moriarty
August 2007
320 pages

From Publishers Weekly
Moriarty's follow-up to book-group favorite The Center of Everything again explores a tense, fragile mother-daughter relationship, this time finding sharper edges where personal history and parenting meet. Now a junior high school English teacher married to a college professor, Leigh has spent much of her adult life trying to distance herself from her dysfunctional childhood. Raising their two children in a small, safe Kansas town not far from where Leigh and her troubled sister, Pam, were raised by their single mother, Leigh finds her good fortune still somewhat empty. Daughter Kara, 18 and a high school senior, is distant; sensitive younger son Justin is unpopular; Leigh can't seem to reach either—Kara in particular sees Leigh (rightly) as self-absorbed. When Kara accidentally hits and kills another high school girl with the family's car, Leigh is forced to confront her troubled relationship with her daughter, her resentment toward her husband (who understands Kara better) and her long-buried angst about her own neglectful mother. The intriguing supporting characters are limited by not-very-likable Leigh's POV, but Moriarty effectively conveys Leigh's longing for escape and wariness of reckoning.

It’s true that Leigh is not-very-likable.  In fact, she’s down-right annoying, even after her best friend calls her on her self-centeredness.  I often wanted to reach into the pages and wring her neck.  Leigh has tried to leave behind her unhappy childhood, but she has overcompensated by being stand-offish, even with her own daughter.  The tragedy is that Leigh doesn’t see that her attitude has alienated almost everyone around her.

The book is so skewed towards Leigh’s perspective that at times I forgot it wasn’t being told from the first person point of view.  So while we learn all about Leigh, it’s hard to get to know the other characters, particularly Kara.  I often felt myself wondering what was going through her head.  While the Kara’s accident is the catalyst for everything that happens in the book, Kara spends most of her time in her room, a place the story (and Leigh) doesn’t often venture.

Despite my vexation (hah…I love that word…it’s so old-fashioned) with Leigh, I still flew through this book.  Despite the topic, it’s an engaging read. 

I read The Center of Everything at the end of 2007…I think I liked that one better though, because the main character was in high school during the 80’s, and all of the familiar cultural references were entertaining.  Also, this one has that increasingly familiar back-of-a-woman’s-head cover.  It seems like everywhere I look lately there’s a book with that choice of cover art.  What’s up with that?

9 comment(s):

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I always wonder about authors who make unlikeable characters because wouldn't you be afraid readers would think you were writing about yourself?

Jo-Jo said...

I remember that this book caught my eye when it first came out. It sounds like one that I might like, especially with the 80's references. Thanks for the review!

bermudaonion said...

I really enjoyed The Rest of Her Life, so I'll be looking for The Center of Everything, since you think it's even better.

Ti said...

Leigh was unlikable but I could relate to her. It's hard to explain but since my relationship with my mother was a love/hate one, I got Leigh and how she sort of felt as if her daughter was getting off too easy.

I haven't read her other books but she has a new one coming out. I saw it on Shelf Awareness I think.

Diane said...

Thanks for this great review. When I saw the title and author, I thought I read it, but iy does not ring a bell??

Jenners said...

It does vex me too that they have the back of women's heads!!! (Did you notice how I worked in vex?) I think it is so you'll create your own character face or something. Or not. I just made that up right now.

Veens said...

I am not reading tis one.. coz i will get irritated if i can't kill Leigh :D

Wrighty said...

I read this one last year for an online book club at B&N. Your review is spot on. The characters got on my nerves a bit but it was an interesting story. I would like to read the other book, especially with the 80's references!

lilly said...

I have had this one on my shelf since it's hardcover publication and still haven't read it. I don't really warm up all that well to self-centered characters but since you still liked it and think it's still a good read then I'll read it too.

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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