Brunch and Other Obligations by Suzanne Nugent – ⭐⭐⭐⭐
For a slow start and hot finish, for a book about people, for explorations of connections and community, for enemies-to-friends kind of relationships :). It’s also seriously quotable. So many good lines!
The only thing reclusive bookworm Nora, high-powered attorney Christina, and supermom-in-training Leanne ever had in common was their best friend, Molly. When Molly dies, she leaves mysterious gifts and cryptic notes for each of her grieving best friends, along with one final request: that these three mismatched frenemies have brunch together every month for a year. Filled with heartwrenching scenes and witty prose, Brunch and Other Obligations explores the intricate dynamics of girlhood acquaintances who are forced to reconnect as women. This upbeat novel reminds readers that there’s hope for getting through the hard times in life―with a lot of patience, humor, and a standing brunch date.
To be honest, when I first started this book I was surprised by how rigid the characters seemed. Each was defined by a very specific characteristic that felt exaggerated and as though it was their whole identity. But as it continued, they were given more characteristics even if they were still a bit pigeonholed into their original cliche. But I ended the book with a smile and a tear in my eye, which is always a solid way to end.
The connection the women develop throughout is definitely an odd picture of friendship from the outside looking in. They’ve never had much in common besides their now-dead mutual friend Molly. And without her, they all kind of loathe each other. Exposure theory seems to come into play here as they are forced to spend time together for a year. They get to know each other, even though they don’t want to. Fake Parisian houses and awkward encounters at the hospital are not what they planned on, and yet they force them into intimacy that they slowly embrace.
It’s kind of a shame that Molly is dead, because she was probably my favorite character. This is in part because even though she’s dead, we learn so much about who she was starting from her last requests and bequeaths to her cadre of friends. The fact that a person who is ostensibly not even in the story becomes so much of its beating heart is a testament to the strength of writing Nugent has.
Despite it’s somewhat slow start for me, by the last chapters I was eagerly flying through the pages, desperate to know what would be happening. I also want to shout out to Maeve’s brief story included in the middle of the book, because I’m not really clear on why it was included, but I am SO GLAD it was included. I would love a whole story about Maeve. Nugent — there’s your next book! And that’s just one example of how everyone in the story gets their story told, no matter how small they may seem. Who’d have expected Diane the waitress to become so memorable despite the fact that she has like ten lines in the whole book?
Read this as a part of the Booksparks Summer Reading Camp 2020 (SRC2020)! See the full lineup of books here. 🙂
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