It’s been a hot minute or year since I read an actual, physical book that wasn’t nonfiction. Audio books have been a staple of my life for the last year and I found that I can only listen to nonfiction while driving … because I like to imagine the fiction and that doesn’t exactly bode well for being behind the wheel. If you check out my Good Reads list you’ll see a plethora of political memoirs with a few fun books mixed in. Not going to like, this makes me feel a wee bit smarter than I was before. Can’t say for sure whether or not that statement is rooted in actual fact.
I recently took a new job with a nine (9!!!!) minute commute, which all but annihilated my audio book time. So, I needed to fill that void and to be honest, I have really missed getting lost in a good women’s fiction novel. I suggested an online book club to my mom group and BAM I’m back in the business of reading for FUN!
But, I digress.
The first book we chose to read was Girls’ Night Out by Lisa Steinke and Liz Fenton. The book is centered around three friends – Ashley, Lauren and Natalie. Ashley and Natalie have a business together called BloMe (for real) and have a big offer from Revlon that could change their lives for the better, if only they both agreed on the outcome. Lauren is recently widowed and we quickly learn that she had a falling out with her two best friends at her husband’s funeral – but, we don’t learn the details until much later in the book.
I have read a few of Lisa & Liz’s books and I have enjoyed each one. I love their method of storytelling from multiple characters and perspectives. The writing is seamless, but each character’s personality is distinct. The same is true in GNO. Early on Ashley, Natalie and Lauren are all well-developed and defined. And they stay true to character throughout the book.
When I first started reading GNO, I was afraid I was about to embark on the female version of The Hangover. Natalie wakes up along on the beach after a night of drinking. Her dress is wet and she is covered in sand and has no memory of how she got there. She also quickly discovers that Ashley is missing. From there the book turns into the mystery thriller I was expecting.
(I am going to attempt to write this review without giving away any spoilers … but, just in case, you’ve been warned).
Although the book dives right into Ashley going missing, I felt the first few chapters dragged a little and I was speed reading to get to the reveals (Why was Lauren so mad at Ashley? Why was Natalie so desperate for this Revlon deal to happen and why was Ashley so against it?). The book wove in and out of timelines as well as character POVs in order to set the stage for Ashley’s disappearance, so it takes some time to get to the juicy bits of the plot. Normally, I can guess the answer to the mystery (an annoying trait I am sure comes from my own desire to be a writer), but not in this case. I was way wrong on what happened with Lauren and Ashley at Lauren’s husband’s funeral and I was only partially right on what happened to Ashley.
As much as I love Lisa & Liz and their writing and dynamic characters, I could not find a single redeeming quality in any of the girls. I found Lauren to be too whiny, Ashley too demanding and Natalie too much of a doormat. I kept reading and waiting for something to flip my opinion, but even in the end, the girls didn’t evolve. They left vacation the
same as they came to it, well almost – can’t really spoil that part for you. This disappointed me. These three girls went through a major life changing event not only on this trip but in the year leading up to it and none of them learned anything or made any efforts to change. Perhaps this is grounded in real life, but I was missing the “lesson,” if you will.
I devoured this book in three days – even stayed up past midnight reading and woke up early to finish it the next day (as a working mom with two kids, midnight is WAY past my bedtime). I enjoyed the shifting perspectives and timelines and the writing kept me turning the page to get to the next reveal. The one negative is that I never actually cared what happened to the characters – I wanted to, but I was more interested in the what than the who. If that makes sense. I loved the story, but not the characters.
In all, I enjoyed GNO and it was a great first read in my return to fiction journey.