Thursday, October 25, 2012

Review and Giveaway: Lola's Secret by Monica McInerney

 Lola Quinlan is her family's matriarch, leader among her many friends and the glue that holds relationships together. Despite being in her 80's,  she is a force to be reckoned with within her family and her community. When her son and his wife plan to travel over Christmas and leave behind Lola in the motel they run in the Clare Valley,  Lola cooks up a plan so she will not be alone over the holiday.  In the lead up to Christmas, however, Lola also faces strained relationships within her family and a challenging addition to the committee at her charity.  Will Lola be able to pull everyone, strangers and family alike, together over the holidays and heal the cracks in their relationships?  If anyone can, it is Lola Quinlan.

Faced with spending Christmas alone, Lola decides not to close the motel as instructed by her son and his wife but to offer some rooms and a special Christmas luncheon in scenic Clare Valley.  She realizes managing the motel for ten guests will be a tall order for someone her age but she never turns down a challenge and thrives on human contact.  Ultimately, four groups book reservations at the hotel for the holiday and each is looking for refuge or healing in some way in the Clare Valley.  Meanwhile, Lola schemes to keep her plan secret from her family.

Considering the drama going on in the lives of Lola's family members, the secret is easy enough to keep.  Her two granddaughters, Bett and Carrie (first introduced in McInerney's novel Alphabet Sisters), have renewed their sibling rivalry now that they both have young children and each is insecure about their skills as a mother.  They both imagine that the other has this whole parenthood thing down and is secretly judging them.  They put Lola between them when they come to her for advice and tell their side of the story. Lola tries to help them but she also has her 12 year old great granddaughter to contend with as she struggles to accept the fact the her Dad is dating again following her mother's death. As only a wise great grandmother can, Lola tries to convince the girl to accept the changes in her Dad's life. To top it all off, Lola is dealing with a bossy new committee woman at the charity.  This woman has swooped in and taken over the annual window display for the charity store and has turned it into a dramatic, but unappealing, scene. Lola certainly has her share of battles on hand.

My Thoughts
Lola's Secret introduces us to feisty Lola and the wide cast of characters within her family and community. Lola is the type of woman we all wish we had in our own communities and families and is key to the success of this novel.  With so many characters, Lola is really the only character that gets developed so fully and she therefore is the spotlight of the novel.  In this way, the book reminds me of Maeve Binchy's novels - there is generally a strong main character around which the entire book is built.  The result is a novel in which the community becomes a character itself and charms the reader - that is exactly what happened with Lola's Secret.

My one quibble with the book is that there were a few plot lines that were never fully developed; for example, the beginning of the book spent time introducing us to the four groups planning to come to Clare Valley as part of Lola's scheme.  They each had their own interesting backstory and I wanted to see those stories come to fruition.  Instead, we were off to deal with Lola's family dramas and her issues at the charity shop. There could have been two novels - one that fully developed the four story lines of the guests and a second one focused on Lola and her family.

I was saddened to learn of Maeve Binchy's death earlier this year especially since I have always relied on her books as my comfort reads. I am thrilled to have discovered Monica McInerney because if Lola's Secret is any indication, I will be relying on her for my comfort reads!

I reviewed this book as part of the TLC Book Tour. You see more reviews at the other tour stops:

Monday, October 15th:  Adventures of an Intrepid Reader
Wednesday, October 17th:  Seaside Book Nook
Thursday, October 18th:  Mom in Love with Fiction
Monday, October 22nd:  BookNAround
Wednesday, October 24th:  Silver & Grace
Thursday, October 25th:  Books in the City
Monday, October 29th:  Peppermint Ph.D.
Tuesday, October 30th:  Reviews from the Heart
Thursday, November 1st:  Colloquium
Monday, November 5th:  A Chick Who Reads
Tuesday, November 6th:  Bookfoolery and Babble
Wednesday, November 7th:  Amused by Books
Thursday, November 8th:  Suko’s Notebook
Monday, November 12th:  Fiction State of Mind
Wednesday, November 14th:  Life in Review
Friday, November 16th:  Books and Movies
Thanks to the publisher and TLC Book Tours I have one copy of this book to offer as a giveaway.  To be entered, please leave a comment below telling me what book is your "comfort read" and a way to contact youGiveaway will close on Thursday November 1st.

I received an e-galley for review as part of the TLC Book Tour


  1. Hmmm, I think my comfort reads would be Lorna Landvik's earlier books (I'm not as fond of her later books).

    Thanks for the review of this book, I'll definitely be looking into it!

  2. My comfort reads are Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer!

  3. Maeve Binchy was my all time favorite comfort read author so I'm going to add this author to my list.
    For now I can always count on Debbie Macomber for a super comfort read :)

  4. Lola sounds like a force to be reckoned with! I'm not sure what my comfort reads are - maybe good, old fashioned chick lit.

  5. hmmm not sure about a comfort read...I think if I had to pick an author it would Emily Giffin I know I will enjoy her books before I even pick it up.

    Laura Kay

  6. Lola sounds wonderful My comfort reads MAeve binchy engish sagas.

  7. I always go back to Little Women when I want a comfort read. It takes me back to a simpler time in my life.


  8. I'm so glad you found a new comfort-reads author! You always need to have at least one of those in my opinion.

    Thanks for being on the tour.

  9. There was just too much going on in Lola's Secret for me...I needed some depth and never felt like I got it :( I do like Lola's character and her humor though and really think I'll pick up The Alphabet Sisters since it has received such rave reviews :)

  10. I am starting this one tonight, so I didn't read your review! :) I did, however, add the link to the main Ireland Challenge page.