By Kristan Higgins
At night, after a supper of Food That Would Keep Us Alive, Tweety occasionally eating a piece of bread from my mother’s lips, as I struggled not to dry heave or mention bird-borne pathogens, I’d ask Poe if she wanted to play Scrabble or Apples to Apples or Monopoly. Shockingly, she did not and would go upstairs to listen to more screamo music.
I finished Now That You Mention It, in one day. I did like it, obviously, because I couldn’t put it down. But it’s not amongst my favorite Kristan Higgins. I’m not sure why. It’s a more serious novel about a dysfunctional family and how those that remain are reconciled. It is about two young girls and how the abandonment by their father wreaks devastating consequences for them both. One ends up in prison and our heroine, Nora, manages to pull herself out of the black hole of her childhood and become a doctor through hard work and leaving the cruel and hurtful climate of her childhood home by winning a scholarship to Tufts University. The Higgins humor is still there, just not as pervasive as in her early works. Here’s one of my favorite descriptions of her Mother:
I still had my Maine medical license, just in case my mom ever needed me in an emergency, though she wasn’t the type to have emergencies, and certainly not the type to call me if she did. Say a grizzly bear came down from Canada and bit off her arm. Mom would just shoot the bear, sew her arm back on with the thick black thread she used to sew our buttons back on when we were kids, then butcher the bear, make it into chili and use the skin as a rug.
Classic Higgins. Nora’s Mom is the acme of Higgins’ long line of crazy mothers. There are also 2 classic slapstick comedy episodes that had me laughing out loud.
It is certainly not the light frothy romance of her early efforts. Although even then she was delving into pain and dysfunction. Her two novels prior to this one were certainly more women’s fiction than romance and I loved them. Her bridge between the two genres was one of my favorites: Anything for You. I think the main reason this is on the periphery of “great” for me was that the romance part seemed a little tacked on rather than being an integral part of the story. It could have been cut out completely and hardly missed. In addition, there were some things I really didn’t understand. The drama and conflict did not seem well supported.
The inexplicables: **spoilers**
Why did she put up with her sister’s mess for so long? Why was she such a victim and martyr when it came to her worthless cruel and destructive sister? Why did she still love her so much?
Why was her mother so cold and blind to Nora’s childhood suffering? Why didn’t she try to reach out to her later in life? Everyone could see that Nora was a kind, strong, lovely smart woman. Why was she still so mean to her? I mean, I can understand Maine’s reserve and stoicism, but this woman was so distant and unsympathetic to her wonderful daughter who would have made any parent so proud. And only her daughter. She was well-liked and respected in the community and doted on her pet bird, and she started a hug therapy business, for heaven’s sake. Where did that come from? Nora did nothing to deserve such apparent indifference.
Why did her winning the Perez scholarship cause such hostility in the community? Why was she blamed for the accident? How could she blame herself? Many knew of Luke, the town golden boy’s, drugging and slipping grades. The teachers knew he hadn’t even come close to winning the scholarship and it was Nora’s all along. Luke knew it. His doting mother would have known about his grade slippage. Yet they blamed Nora for “stealing” the prize. This is a small isolated community. More people would have known and spread the word. Nora was a daughter of one of the mainstays of the community. She wasn’t some intruder. Come on. He flunked out of Maine Uni. Whose fault was that? After the bullying and cruelty Nora endured as a child, how could any of the townspeople blame her for not coming back for 15 years?
How could it have taken Poe so long to love and appreciate her Aunt? **end spoilers**
All in all, I did enjoy the book. The suspense of unanswered questions, high anticipation of events that were bound to happen, and characters one gets greatly invested in kept me reading throughout the day. I was pleasantly surprised that she stayed clear of certain dramatic and potentially angst-ridden events that could have happened but didn’t. I was just a little disappointed in the romance and some of the plot points. ***3.5 stars***
December 27, 2017