What are you doing here? This blog is dead. Go to http://kattyatlaw.com/ and bookmark it and update your reader and your blogroll and all that other good stuff.
And I don’t expect to see you around these parts anymore!
K (the blogger formerly known as Amie)
Today is my 30th birthday.
Which means it is time to say goodbye to Amie. “Amie” was a fun pseudonym while she lasted, but her time has gone. She was SO 20-something. I’m not going away. I’m just not going to be Amie anymore.
I’m still not telling you my name. Don’t be silly.
I will, however, give you a new link where you can find me in all my 30-something glory (WHAT? 30-and-seconds is 30-something). Do visit if you are so inclined. Nothing’s changing. I’ll still have lots of stupid navel-gazing content and yap about musicals and books and other random things. Don’t worry.
Catch you around.
On the first page of The Underside of Joy, Ella Beene knows a few things for certain. She knows that she and her husband, Joe, don’t lie to each other. She knows that Joe’s first wife, Paige, abandoned Joe and their two children. She knows that Paige never tried to contact the kids and has no interest in them. She knows that she is deliriously happy, and knows that things are going very well for her and her family. She knows that she is the only mother that Joe’s kids know.
When Joe dies in a freak accident, Ella learns just how little of what she was sure she knew was true. When Paige shows up at Joe’s funeral, the older child remembers Paige. Paige wants custody. Ella, convinced of what she knows, turns into a protective mama bear. While the custody battle between the two women heats up, the truth slowly but surely comes out. Paige claims that she repeatedly tried to contact the kids during her absence. After the first child, Paige experienced severe postpartum depression. When the second was born, Paige’s PPD was worse. She left because she was afraid she would hurt the kids if she stayed. Ella swears Paige never tried to reach the kids, and Paige starts to doubt whether she had actually written and sent the letters she remembered writing as part of her recovery.
Ella also uncovers painful family history from both Joe’s and Paige’s families. The history helps her understand things she had always silently questioned. There’s more painful family history than is probably necessary for the story, but Halverson doesn’t dwell on it other than pointing it out. Some of the history was a bit predictable, though I didn’t expect the exact details and still enjoyed watching it unfold. Ella learns how naive she was in her happiness, and how the perfect relationship she thought she had was flawed. She doesn’t see Joe as less, or their love as less, or anything like it. Instead, she matures and realizes she had been wilfully blind to flaws and bad things. It isn’t wrong to know your spouse’s weaknesses. Acknowledging them is part of growing. Ella grows.
Both Paige and Ella love the children unconditionally and with all their hearts. Each wants what she believes is best for the children. Unfortunately, their ideas of what is best don’t always line up. The Underside of Joy follows them navigating the differences, and eventually learning that more mothers is okay; that stepmothers aren’t always evil; and that the kids can be better off and enriched the most if they have BOTH Ella AND Paige as loving constants in their lives.
I couldn’t put this book down. I picked it up and started reading one day after work, and finished it the same night. I truly enjoyed reading it and seeing how the characters would resolve their differences. It shows two very different people reluctantly gaining empathy for each other. Anyone – parent, stepparent, nonparent, whatever – can learn some lessons from The Underside of Joy. Highly recommended as a beach read (or a curled up by the fire drinking hot cocoa read).
For more on The Underside of Joy, visit the BlogHer Book Club for discussions about the book.
This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club. All opinions are my own.