Four Friends by Robyn Carr
Published by Robyn Carr ISBN 978-0-7783-1681-7
Trade paperback, $14.95, 370 pages
I don't read many romance novels, and I associate Harlequin Publishing with that genre. But over the last few years, Harlequin has branched out with their Mira imprint to publish books that will appeal to a wider audience.
Last year at the Book Expo of America, Jason Mott's novel, The Returned, was one of the books getting a big push. There were huge banners and lots of Advanced Reader Copies given away. I read and liked that one, the story of people who died and came back years later with no explanation. ABC turned the book into a TV series now running titled Resurrection. (My review of The Returned is here.)
Now comes Robyn Carr's latest novel, Four Friends, which tells the story of, yes, four friends. Geri and her husband Phil are very busy, with two full-time, all-encompassing careers (she works for Child Protective Services and he is an assistant district attorney) and three teenage children. They don't always have time to do everything they want, but they have a solid marriage- or so Geri believes.
Andy is Geri's best friend and is on the verge of her second divorce, this time from a hot younger guy. Her son is Geri's son's friend, but he has been very distant lately, something she attributes to her marital problems with a guy he doesn't really like. Her second divorce in ten years has left her depressed.
Sonja is a curious mix of Type A control freak and New Age yoga instructor. She forces Andy and Geri to power walk every morning, and has always been there for her friends with a friendly shoulder to lean on, and taking charge when they need help with anything. She keeps her wealthy, older husband George on a tight leash, monitoring his diet and stress levels to keep him healthy, but she is unaware that he is deeply unhappy.
BJ is the newest woman in the neighborhood, a single mom with two young children. She keeps to herself, running alone every morning, but occasionally she can be encouraged to join the ladies in their early morning walks. There is a mystery to her, but one that most readers can at least in part guess.
Their worlds seem to come apart one summer when Geri learns that her perfect marriage may not be so solid. Maybe because I have been married as long as Geri, I was most involved in her story. I felt that Carr delved most deeply in her character, and she realistically portrayed the challenges of balancing a marriage, raising teenagers and having a demanding career. And she wrote a few very hot sex scenes for this long married couple.
Andy finds herself inexplicably attracted to the man remodeling her kitchen- fifty-three-year-old, balding, not-turn-your-head-attractive Bob. Bob and Andy get to know each other with their nightly chats, and everyone can guess where this is headed, but it is sweet watching it happen. If you don't root for Bob, well, I don't want to know you.
Sonja is stunned when George can't take anymore New Age nonsense and leaves. She completely falls apart, and it is up to her friends to put aside their problems to come to her rescue. It takes awhile, but eventually we get to Sonja's backstory and the reason for her control issues.
Mysterious BJ has a fascinating story, but perhaps because she is the one furthest from the circle, we don't find out as much about her as the others, until the end of the story. I liked BJ, she has good intuition, and a prequel or sequel with her character would be interesting.
Watching these four women help each other and deal with issues on their own makes for a terrific read. I was drawn into their lives, and felt like I could be watching their stories play out from my window in their neighborhood. Some characters are given more time than others, as there are too many characters to give all equal time. (Bob and Geri's mother-in-law were two of my favorites.)
The author clearly believes in counseling; many of the characters go into marital counseling, psychiatric counseling, and group counseling. At times, it seemed to be that everyone was in counseling.
This would be a good book club pick. There are many issues at play here- domestic abuse, depression, marital infidelity, divorce, raising teenagers, menopause, and keeping secrets among others- enough to keep a lively talk going, and there are discussion questions at the end to guide you.
rating 4 of 5
Robyn Carr's website is here.