Published: July 31, 2007
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Recommended for readers wanting a lighter read
Angela Russo finds herself in Maine thanks to a sailing instructor, an impulse, and an idea that in Maine, people live "the way life should be." But reality on Mount Desert Island is not what she expected. Far from everything familiar, Angela begins to rebuild her life from the ground up. Relying on the flair for Italian cooking she inherited from her grandmother, she begins to discover the pleasures and secrets of her new small community—and to connect her heritage to a future she is only beginning to envision.
The only other book by Christina Baker Kline that I had read before this was Orphan Train, which I loved. The Way Life Should Be is an entirely different kind of book. It is firmly in the women's fiction genre, bordering on chick lit. I don't say that derisively, as I feel both are valid types of reading material. So, it became clear to me early on reading this book that I had to banish Orphan Train from my mind in order to give The Way Life Should Be a fair shake.
I definitely find this book to be more "Women's Fiction" than "Chick Lit." While these two genres are sometimes used interchangeably, for me the line is that Chick Lit is more romantically based while Women's Fiction tends more towards introspection in the characters. There is a small romantic element in this novel, but it is more a plot convention than anything (and leads to what I found to be a rather amusing exchange about halfway through the novel).
I liked Angela as a character and I could relate to her--I understand that feeling of not being in the right place and still trying to find home. While I found her family situation less than unique, it still fit with the character. I could completely understand why Angela would move to Maine almost on a whim and, more importantly, I could understand why she stayed.
I like Kline's style of writing, but it is different here than I expected after reading Orphan Train. In this book, she is lighter and more prone to humor. Part of this I expect is due to the subject matter, but it is still markedly different from her most recent (and successful) novel.
The Way Life Should Be is definitely a lighter read and I think that readers expecting something meatier would be disappointed. However, I think one must judge this book on its own merits and, for me, it is one of the more successful Women's Fiction titles I've read recently
I was not solicited for this review and I received no compensation for this post.