Here, Home, Hope

Date Fri, June 3 2011

Here, Home, Hope

Here, Home, Hope

In an attempt to break away from the type of reading I’ve been doing for, literally, years, I decided to review a fiction book about “one woman’s journey through a midlife makeover” when One2One Network offered the opportunity. Here, Home, Hope is a shorter, easy read by Kaira Rouda and absolutely fit the bill at least in terms of page number. Nevertheless, I did not enjoy the content or style of writing very much.

The book opens in the summer as our main character, Kelly, is missing the two sons who are away at camp. She has been a stay-at-home mom for over a decade and is considering what she wants to do with her life. She is depressed, she tells us (the book is written in first person, present tense) and doesn’t know why. Everything is great. Great, great, great. Through-out the book, Kelly keeps telling us how great everything is, yet she doesn’t like her life.

Okay, so she takes on a few projects, like helping her friend’s teenage daughter who has anorexia and assisting another friend in staging a house for sale, to keep her busy and fulfill her desire to do more now that her kids are older and out of the house for the summer. In addition to this, Kelly writes up post-it notes as little reminders of the things she needs to do in order to become happier and achieve her new goals. These notes include tid-bits such as “stop comparing myself to others.” These become a list of things to change or, as Kelly calls them in her too-eager-to-be-hip style “T2C.”

There’s no outright problem with the premise. In fact, the mid-life crisis has made for many a great story. The issue is, this just isn’t a great story. Rouda writes in a very abrupt and short way that completely glazes over the significant parts of the story and makes it very difficult to feel for the characters, even the one who is telling the story. While Kelly tries so hard to express how good her marriage is, the reader just never sees anything to indicate this. Sure, she shares some meals with her husband but she completely neglects to tell him that she’s seeing a therapist and has been diagnosed with depression. That is not a great marriage. That does not exemplify strength of a relationship. Kelly’s conversations with her husband are short and too scripted to feel real. Scripted really isn’t even the right word, when I think of it. They’re more like filler. All the conversations Kelly has with anyone in this book really seem that way. I’ve never met anyone who talks like that. The people are all completely devoid of real, believable emotion. The anger, the love, the sadness, even the sex is only briefly touched on, leaving the reader wanting more.

To add to the incredibility of the story, everything just falls right into place for Kelly. She decides to start a business and, somehow, is able to make $15,000 of her first project, make an appearance on television, set-up a website (with no apparent experience in doing so) and book a 600-person party all before the business is actually started. Super realistic, huh?

As I read Here, Home, Hope, I couldn’t help but become resentful and angry at the self indulgent attitude of the main character. If real people act like this, they should be ashamed of themselves. The first half of the book is entirely full of name-dropping (clothes brands, hotels, business, et cetera) in a self-loathing, entitled sort of way. It’s almost impossible not to want to smack Kelly across the face, especially with her sense of entitlement and because she takes everything for granted (drop a couple hundred on new clothes and you husband only briefly mentions that, hey, the economy isn’t doing so well..), if you’ve ever had to deal with real problems. And this is amidst all of the real problems that are affecting her friends and peers (don’t fret! Those peers also manage to deal with their issues without any realistic emotions or actions). It’s not that I don’t understand depression.. because I do. It’s not rational and I get that but Kaira Rouda doesn’t seem to understand that you need to emphasize how depression works if you don’t want your readers to hate your whiny little bitch of a main character. You can’t just mention that your character is suddenly taking medicine and only briefly touch on whether or not it works once.

Depression aside, I loathe Kelly for more reasons than that. For example, toward the second half of the book, there are a few chapters where we find Kelly being a ridiculous bitch to everyone she knows and no one ever seems to step up and ream her a new one. Granted, there’s a lot of stress going on at this point but it almost comes out of nowhere. If she’s feeling so happy, why is she acting like a teenager? Suddenly, she stops doing this and everything wraps up perfectly at the end of the book, except, I’m not really sure what the main conflict was nor why Rouda decided to end the story where she did (it’s one of those “this is the ending?!” moments) nor if I should really even care.

Now, I recognize that it’s hard for me to completely understand the feelings of a middle-aged house wise from suburbia and perhaps the protagonist just reminds me a little bit too much of my former mother-in-law (who can really identify with someone who’s weight-obsessed and cannot stand the idea of putting on the summer six pounds but who can blow $200+ on an emergency hair job?) but the author’s brusque style of writing simply lacks depth. It plays out in the conversations, the plot and the thoughts and interactions of all characters, resulting in an unbelievable blandness. I’ve read many books that should have been much harder to believe than Here, Home, Hope yet became completely immersed in them. I literally found myself reading every word in every conversation with the same tone because Rouda cannot write creatively or descriptively. The book comes off as the work of a complete amateur who also has issues with tense.

The only positive I can take from this is that at least it was a quick read. I finished it in three or four sittings and, by the end, I just wanted to put the damned thing down and never think about it again.

After I post this review, I hope I won’t have to.

I can say, with utmost authority, that the cover is the best thing about this book.

Thanks to One2One Network for this opportunity!

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