Lighten Up!

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Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner

Editor Beth Goehring's selection of three novels to help you plan your perfect escape from reality.

Don't you sometimes just want to lighten up a bit? We all know that we should follow the news. Whether it is about our work, our health, our families or our communities, we are constantly processing new and important information that will help us make better choices in our lives. But amidst all this vital information that we are collecting, it's important for us to remember to visit the lighter side of life every now and then. After all, aren't there times when nothing but a wonderful, lose-yourself-in-someone-else's-life, laugh-cry-and-sigh, feel-good story will do?

You could plan a mini get-away night with your girlfriends to catch the Sex and the City movie but what about those moments that pop up daily when what you need is the means to perform a quick mental escape? Have no fear; I'm here with three thoroughly entertaining novels that are excellent park-bench or poolside companions. Their characters' voices-honest, forthright, and funny--ring out over the daily chatter, clear and fresh and impossible to ignore. Pack them along with your brown-bag lunch (healthy, of course!) for your noontime break or curl up with them when you're finished solving the world's problems and you're relaxing over a long weekend. These three novels are guaranteed to lighten and brighten your day. And let's face it; we could all use a little levity with our insights these days.

"A mother is confronted with an angry daughter in this laugh-and-cry-out-loud novel."

All of us who could see ourselves in zaftig sexy-and-she-doesn't-even-know-it, Cannie Shapiro in Jennifer Weiner's Good in Bed have been dying for Cannie to make a re-appearance. She’s back in CERTAIN GIRLS (Atria Books, April 2008) as a mother whose daughter Joy will be giving her anything but when a secret Cannie's been keeping since Joy was born surfaces. In top form, Weiner made me laugh one minute and cry the next. Here's the wittiest, most believable dialogue being written today-reads quick, too! That's how they could make such a fabulous film out of her novel, In Her Shoes. The script was practically already written for the producers. Of course, the brilliant idea to make Shirley MacLaine, Cameron Diaz, and Toni Collette a wounded family was a gift from the casting gods.

"After losing her memory, Lexi Smart is suddenly attracted to someone who is not her husband."

I confess: I was not the number one fan club member of Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series. So I was excited and intrigued when she left the laundry lists of chic brand names out of her novels and turned her laser-like focus on how a girl's life can change in an instant. In REMEMBER ME? (The Dial Press, February 2008), Lexi Smart has a car accident and loses her memory, plus three years of her life in which she became a corporate hotshot and wife to a handsome hunk. This surprising turn-of-events doesn't stop her from pining after someone else and Lexi won't settle until she finds out why. This is what I call "daydream fiction," a deliciously, happy-ever-after book that has the reader, not just the writer, asking herself, "What if?"

Belong to Me

"Cornelia Ward is set adrift in suburbia after leaving the city behind."

The newest of these three authors, Marisa de los Santos, presents her second novel, a follow-up to her critically acclaimed debut, LOVE WALKED IN. BELONG TO ME (William Morrow, April 2008) reminds me of Jennifer Weiner’s work, but there’s an undeniable sorrow to Marisa’s stories that gives her books a depth other women’s novels never reach. Her main character, Cornelia Brown, moves from the city to the suburbs and encounters a world more foreign than the farthest reaches of an exotic continent. Marisa defines her book as being "about how the most unlikely people can end up belonging to us, about what it means to be a wife, a mother, a father, a son, a true friend." That's a small universe in between two covers, a wholly credible world where sadness and joy, duty and pleasure exist side by side--just like your homework and a book you read for fun.

While it might not be quite so easy to imagine ourselves as Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte taking NYC by storm, we can certainly see ourselves in a mother confronted with an angry daughter, a confused wife with a thing for an old boyfriend, and a woman set adrift in suburbia. Step out of your crazy-busy life for a minute and walk in their shoes a bit. The best thing about fun fiction? Happily ever after is just a few pages away.

A note from Beth Goehring: "I am so excited to write about books for CESLIE-The Women's Network. Reading is not only a lifelong passion, but it's my job. As the editor-in-chief for a group of book clubs that includes Book-of-the-Month Club®, The Literary Guild®, Doubleday Book Club®, Mystery Guild®, and The Good Cook®, I hear the early buzz about what will soon be hot in everything from autobiography to zoology. In any week, my colleagues and I review hundreds of upcoming books to choose those that really deliver, whether it's with fascinating characters, an unforgettable story, a vicarious thrill, a wealth of useful information or compelling inspiration. Hands-down, the best thing about my job is finding that hidden gem, a novel that wasn't lavished with a huge marketing budget, not for lack of charm or quality, but because of a publisher's limited resources. When I can make a match between one of these unsung heroes and a grateful reader, then I've done my job well!"

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