Where can a woman turn when her own life threatens to overwhelm her ability to keep her children safe New York Times bestselling author Jacquelyn Mitchard takes the readers of her newest novel on a wry and moving journey of loss and healing. Giving advice is what Julieanne does for a living -- every Sunday she doles it out in a column in her local Wisconsin paper. But when it comes to her personal life, Julie herself seems to have missed some clues. Having worked creatively to keep her twenty-year marriage to Leo fresh and exciting and to be a good mother, she is completely caught off guard when he tells her he needs to go on a "sabbatical" from their life together, leaving Julie and their three children behind. But it soon becomes clear that his leave of absence is meant to be permanent. Things take a turn for the worse when Julie is diagnosed with a serious illness and the children undertake a dangerous journey to find Leo -- before it's too late.
No one could blame Julieanne Gillis, beleaguered heroine of this no-holds-barred family drama by Mitchard (The Deep End of the Ocean, etc.) for not seeing the signs. At first her lawyer husband, Leo Steiner, seems to be in the throes of a midlife crisis, informing Julieanne that he is planning to take early retirement and go and live on a commune in upstate New York for six months. The next thing she knows, he's vanished, leaving her with three children and only her meager income from her advice column for the Sheboygan, Wis., local newspaper. To make matters worse, she's diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The narration alternates between plucky Julieanne and her 15-year-old son, Gabe, a handsome Holden Caulfieldesque loner with a mild learning disability. When things get desperate, Gabe and his 14-year-old sister, Caroline, scan their dad's old e-mails and learn where he might be. Then, during spring break, lying like troopers, the two juveniles take off by bus to find their father. Surely, they think, he'll come home when he learns that their mother is sick. He comes, but the baggage he brings along means further disaster. Leo's behavior is almost campishly craven, but the novel's soap-operatic bathos is perversely satisfying. Rousing melodrama; fluid, often funny, dialogue; and the convincing portrayal of children involved in the collapse of a marriage add up to another page-turner from Mitchard. Agent, Jane Gelfman. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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March 31, 2006
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Excerpt from The Breakdown Lane by Jacquelyn Mitchard
by J. A. Gillis
The Sheboygan News-Clarion
I'm getting married next summer, to a man of another nationality. Both families are very happy, but there is a problem. His many female relatives -- aunts, grandmothers, and sisters -- must sit in the front row, as is their right. As descendants of the Masai in Africa, they are very tall. My family is Japanese-American. We are small -- in number and in size. My father is only five feet four, my sisters less than five feet. The wedding will take place in a hotel ballroom with chairs set up in rows. We did not want to have a "bride's" side and a "groom's" side, because we want this to be a true blending of families. However, I know that the women in my fiance's family are going to wear large, decorative hats (I don't mean ceremonial headdresses, as these are African AMERICANS of many generations, but what my fiance refers to as "church-lady" hats, which are the size of our wedding cake). This will make them even taller, and so no one except my mother and father will be able to see me during the ceremony. I don't want to suggest that they "move to the back of the bus" for my family. So how can we avoid slighting anyone on our special day? Given the disparity of heights, the wedding dance will also be very awkward.
Nervous in Knudson
This is a matter of some sensitivity, since tensions on a wedding day can leave a bitter taste that can linger for years. But nerves? You've already probably got the once-in-a-lifetime jitters every bride endures. Don't add this small opportunity for creativity to your checklist of stress. With the same joy of life you've already demonstrated by your beautifully bold choice to mingle cultures, craft a circle of joy. Ask the staff at the hotel to place the wedding chairs in a wide circle with the first row reserved for the principal members of both families and the rest of the chairs in staggered rows behind, so that each person, regardless of heights, will enjoy a wonderful view. Guests will be escorted through a small opening, the same place your groom will enter with his parents, a few moments before you enter with yours. Make the altar or other ceremonial platform in the center "a round," also -- perhaps exchanging your vows facing in one direction, conducting the ceremonies of rings or candles facing the other, with the transitions gracefully made to instrumental music or song. As for the dance! No one feels awkward at such a happy affair! Think of all the aunts and grandmas you've seen dancing the polka in groups of five!
Let's begin at the end of the beginning. The first moment of the second act of our lives.
It was ballet class. It was the second class of the week, made up of dance combinations and mat Pilates. Steady on the studio floor, I was ready to begin my final stretches. I remember that, a wonderful feeling. I was spent, but pleasurably, my hips not so much aching as aware they'd been asked for something strenuous. This class, and my weight training were the times during my week I felt freed from strain, just shy of pure.