Monday, May 10, 2010

Review: Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier

The Season of Second Chances by Diane Meier tells the story of Joy Harkness and the new chapter she faces in her life. Leaving behind her relatively solitary existence in New York City as a professor at Columbia, Joy heads north and takes a position at a Massachusetts university. The novel chronicles Joy's transition to her new life and the self discovery that accompanies the transition.

Without acknowledging that she wanted or needed to, Joy leaves behind her NYC existence and is suddenly confronted with all kinds of complications to her previously straightforward life. Despite her best efforts to remain aloof, she is embraced by a group of friends and the rhythm of their reliance on each other. To many, this instant community would be welcome but to Joy it feels claustrophobic and she struggles to feel comfortable at weeknight dinners and daily lunches with her new friends. Joy reflects on the difference between her life in NY and her life in Amherst:

My time in New York hadn't exposed me to people who let you see their most intimate or ardent inner lives. I do remember thinking that life at Columbia was devoid of people of goodwill and benevolence. And I remember thinking that they must have had their kind and sweet human emotions removed before they took their jobs, or perhaps the pressures of their academic bred it out of them. Here in Amherst, in contrast, every day seemed to bring another heart onto another sleeve.

Along with new friends, romance also enters Joy's life. Actually, as opposed to the friends who she seems to feel have thrust themselves upon her, romance is welcomed in by Joy. She makes, in my opinion, some unwise choices in the romance department and these choices result in additional complications. Teddy, one of the men with which Joy becomes involved, is enmeshed with his overbearing mother and this limits his ability to fully be in a relationship with Joy. For all his emotional immaturity, Teddy also sees through Joy's aloof exterior to her fears and weaknesses and their relationship brings even more self revelation for Joy.

My assessment:
This book is excellent - it is smart and well written and the characters are complex and interesting. As much as Joy may not seem to always be the most likeable character, I think there is a lot readers can relate to in Joy's struggle to make changes to her life and the discomfort she feels with the changes. The book certainly gave me much to consider.

The genre of this novel is hard to pinpoint - fiction? women's fiction? After reading Diane Meier's blog post entitled "The Ghetto of Women's Lit", I wonder if the ambiguity really matters. In the post, Meier discusses a panel she sat on at the Empire State Book Festival with fellow "women's lit" authors Cathleen Schine, Elizabeth Noble and Sally Koslow. The panel (which I had also read about on Nomad Reader) discussed and debated the perils and benefits of classifying women's lit into "chick lit" and "beach read" as opposed to just fiction. Novels, like Season for Second Chances, that straddle these women's lit sub-categories, run the risk of disappointing those expecting something else from the novel based on the sub category in which they placed it based on relatively superficial criteria such as the cover art or the novels with which it is bundled by Amazon. My recommendation - Just read it!



  1. I just won a copy from Tara... so glad to hear you liked it!

  2. I'm glad u enjoyed this one as much as me. Great review!

  3. I liked it as well and I enjoyed your review.

  4. Thank you for your thoughtful review; I generally am not into "chick lit" and, you're right, would probably not even pick up a book that's classified as such. Your review made me think that maybe I should keep an open mind and not expect all such classified books to follow the same path.

  5. Hi - I stumbled across your blog and am so glad I did. This book sounds like a good read, but more importantly, I appreciate the info about the genre distictions or lack thereof.
    I love, love, love to read too. You should see my poor desk. =D

  6. I won this book & can't wait to receive and read it!!


  7. So glad you enjoyed this one -- it sounds excellent! I have a copy sitting on my bookshelf right now and am very eager to start. Just need more time...

  8. I love the sound of this book. It sort of reminds me of A Mirror has Two Faces. Great review :) I love your blog :)

  9. Another great review for this book! I'll have to put it on my wish list. I enjoyed your review. I'll have to check out Dianne Meier's blog post about the classification of books. It's interesting food for thought.

  10. The author already offered to send me a copy, but I turned it down after reading the first chapter in a bookstore and a few reviews online. There was too much telling instead of showing, and I’m not interested in decorating. Your positive review did made me rethink this decision, but I don’t think it’s for me. I only review books I like.

    I appreciated your observation about categorizing books and Meier’s blog post on this subject. Women’s fiction includes books about relationships written by women for a primarily female audience. My agent is shopping my adult novel, which tackles science and religion, as “commercial women’s fiction.” My novel for teenaged girls is being shopped as "literary young adult fiction." In the end these are marketing categories and something I let my agent worry about. I just write stories.

  11. Thanks for recommending this! I somehow like the synopsis of this book and your review tells me this is a book I would like! I guess I'll bump this book up on my TBR!