Author: Catherine McKenzie
Author: Catherine McKenzie
Publication Information: HarperCollins, trade paper, 2012
Genre: Fiction, Chick Lit
Plot: Recovering from her mother’s death, Emma Tupper, an overworked litigator, goes on the African vacation her mother always longed for and is trapped for six months without access to the real world. When she comes home, everyone has assumed she was dead, including her employer and boyfriend. Worst of all, the employer takes it as an affront that she has returned from the dead and has to be coaxed to take her back while the boyfriend chose Emma’s law firm nemesis as his next girlfriend. In this poignant but sometimes funny book, Emma is forced to deal with her sorrow and decide what kind of life she wants to create with her second chance.
What I liked: Admit it, haven’t you always wondered what would happen if you disappeared for an unspecified amount of time? Would your family and friends sufficiently mourn you? Here, Emma’s loyal friend Stephanie is the only person who refused to believe she could have perished and – worst of all – Emma’s enemy Sophie snagged Emma’s boyfriend Craig (who, admittedly, didn’t wait a decent amount of time to move on and showed very poor judgment in allowing himself to be snagged). Sophie has also been Emma’s rival in her attempt to make partner (at a law firm even more inhuman than the ones I have worked at). The only person who seems to offer a comforting shoulder is the photographer who moved into Emma’s apartment, Dominic, and he has issues that prevent him from being more than a rebound relationship… Lots of people tell Emma this is a meant-to-be opportunity to rewrite her life (I can see why she is annoyed) but she is the only one who can decide what she wants to keep from her old life and where she needs to start fresh.
I enjoyed the minor characters in this book, particularly Emma’s friend Stephanie, her secretary Jenny and her law firm pals, the Initial Brigade. They provided much needed warmth and humor to offset Emma’s isolation. This is the third book by McKenzie I have read – each very different but all very enjoyable.
What I disliked: There was an overwhelming sadness to this book relating to the heroine’s loss of her mother and her uncertainty about her career and personal choices. While understandable, I felt that the uplifting finish was a long time coming. I didn’t enjoy the flashbacks to the six months she spent stranded in an isolated village in Africa, although clearly these were essential to her recognition of how she wanted to live her life after her return. Also, I didn’t see quite why the law firm was so unpleasant to Emma. Even if they had reassigned all her cases (not unreasonable), she had been there a number of years doing good work. Even if they were still mad at her for going on an extended vacation it shouldn’t have been so difficult to get her staffed up again. However, this gave her more incentive to fight to regain her old status. Also, couldn’t Emma’s friend have rescued her possessions before the landlord dumped them all? Reminder to self: must draft a will.
Source: I heard about McKenzie’s book Arranged in a review by an Anne of Green Gables fan back when her work was only available in Canada, and tried unsuccessfully to find it when I was visiting my brother in Montreal two years ago (eventually buying it online). I am glad her books are now readily available in the US and I recommend them.
Query: I read another book about an Emma Tupper long ago: Emma Tupper's Diary by Peter Dickinson. I found his novels memorable but unnerving (especially Eva) and never reread any but I wonder if Catherine McKenzie was paying tribute to that heroine the way she paid tribute to Anne Blythe in Arranged?