Review: The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go by Amy E. Reichert

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☆☆➹⁀☆ 4 stars ☆➹⁀☆☆


What it’s about:

Three generations. Seven days. One big secret. The author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake unfolds a mother-daughter story told by three women whose time to reckon with a life-altering secret is running out.

Gina Zoberski wants to make it through one day without her fastidious mother, Lorraine, cataloguing all her faults, and her sullen teenage daughter, May, snubbing her. Too bad there’s no chance of that. Her relentlessly sunny disposition annoys them both, no matter how hard she tries. Instead, Gina finds order and comfort in obsessive list-making and her work at Grilled G’s, the gourmet grilled cheese food truck built by her late husband.

But when Lorraine suffers a sudden stroke, Gina stumbles upon a family secret Lorraine’s kept hidden for forty years. In the face of her mother’s failing health and her daughter’s rebellion, this optimist might find that piecing together the truth is the push she needs to let go.

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My Thoughts:

Gina is the optimist in Amy E. Reichert’s The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go.  She maintains her optimism even though she has lost the love of her life, her mother is unapproachable, and her daughter treats her with nothing but disdain.  She finds solace in her food truck business.  The business was the brainchild of her late husband, who creatively named Gina’s grilled cheese restaurant on wheels, Grilled G’s!

I was really disheartened by the relationship between Gina and her daughter. May, is sullen over the loss of her father, but instead of turning toward her mother for support, she shuns her.  In fact, she is nothing but rude and disrespectful to her mother throughout much of the book.  Families falling apart after loss are hard books to read.

When Gina’s mother, Lorraine, suffers a major stroke, her long-kept secrets are spilled.  The trifecta of medical issues, skeletons in the closet, and badly behaved teenagers, begin the unraveling of life as they know it.  However, that might not be a bad thing.  This dysfunctional family, made up of individually strong women, needs to be shaken up so that they are forced to regroup and begin again.

Ms. Reichert has written a complex family drama with fragile yet rich relationships.  The similarity of Gina and Lorraine’s history juxtaposed to how they responded is a historically interesting social statement.  The different choices made by Gina and her sister, Vicky, as well as their parent’s responses to those choices, create further strain on the family dynamics.  The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go features food and culture from the state of Wisconsin as well as some seriously lovable lead female characters.

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