Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Book Review: "This Too Shall Pass" by Milena Busquets

This Too Shall Pass Milena Busquets
Published: May 24, 2016
ISBN: 9781101903704
Genre: Contemporary Fiction (Translated)
Source: Penguin's First To Read Program

You might enjoy this book if you like: Translated fiction, fiction with a strong sense of place, Mother/Daughter stories

Blanca is forty years old and motherless. Shaken by the unexpected death of the most important person in her life, she suddenly realizes that she has no idea what her future will look like.

To ease her dizzying grief and confusion, Blanca turns to her dearest friends, her closest family, and a change of scenery. Leaving Barcelona behind, she returns to Cadaqués on the coast, accompanied by her two sons, two ex-husbands, and two best friends, and makes a plan to meet her married lover for a few stolen moments as well. Surrounded by those she loves most, she spends the summer in an impossibly beautiful place, finding ways to reconnect and understand what it means to truly, happily live on her own terms, just as her mother would have wanted.

My Thoughts:
This was one of those reading experiences where some things worked for me and some didn't.  I really think that is a book that will either resonate with a reader based on their own experiences or not.  For me, I read this book shortly after a death in our family, which I do think impacted my reaction to it.  However,I think the best think I can do is just lay out what worked and what didn't work for me at let the rest of you make the decision if this book is for you.

There are two areas in which I felt Busquets excelled.  The first was giving Blanca realistic grief to walk through.  As I said, my family was dealing with grief when I read this book and while I don't think any of us would express our grief the same way Blanca does, her grieving process still seemed very, very real to me.

The second area where Busquets hits a home run is creating a sense of place.  I truly felt like I was on the Spanish coast with Blanca and her friends and family.  The atmosphere in this book was superb.  In some ways, it helped me to think of Mama Mia when reading this--a beautiful setting featuring an older woman and her posse of ex- (and in this case, some current) lovers.

Now, onto what did not work for me.  While I felt that that Blanca's grief was believable, I didn't especially find her to be believable.  She struck me as being a teenager stuck in a 40-year old's body.  She seemed to lack any sort of sense of responsibility for anything, which grew very old very quickly.  To compound the issue, she didn't seem to grow as a character at all as the story progressed, which I found very frustrating.

Finally, this book was really light on plot.  I have nothing against character-driven novels--in fact, I usually quite enjoy them.  However, Blanca was just not a strong enough character to support an entire book without a strong plot.  The supporting characters were not notable enough to help prop up the novel (in fact, I had trouble keeping who was who straight!), so it felt like there was just a gaping hole in this book.

I can't say that I would recommend this book, but I also can't say that I wouldn't recommend it.  In the areas where things worked, the book was excellent.  And, if you are looking for a book that explores grief or takes you to the Spanish coast, this might be one to consider.

I received an electronic copy of this book in return for an honest review.  I received no other compensation for this post.

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