Welcome back to the second edition of That One Time I Binged on Kinsella! Last time we discussed I’ve Got Your Number and The Undomestic Goddess, as well as what inspired my Kinsella binge in the first place: Can You Keep a Secret? Now we’re here to discuss two more non-Shopaholic Kinsella books.
Twenties Girl (★★★.5) surprised me in many ways. At first I didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as everyone said — a ghost great-aunt? really? — but I absolutely sank into it! Lara’s romantic storyline hit a little too close to home for me, so I found it difficult in the beginning. Sadie, Lara’s great-aunt/ghost, could be annoying and conceited, but that changed as the story developed more and we could explore her character. There’s a surprising thread in the story that deals with art and art history, which was fun and really amped up the pace. When Lara’s Trump-like uncle gets involved with the art deal — and the overall family history — Lara comes to terms with many aspects of her life and takes control.
And it’s that “taking control of your life” thread that made Twenties Girl enjoyable. The Lara at the beginning of the book is clinging to a rather poor and directionless job, lacks strong familial relationships, feels isolated from friends, and is quite obsessive with a dead relationship. Sadie tries to snap her out of it, simultaneously teaching her (in her nagging, Sadie way) to live each day fully and to know when to fully invest in something worthwhile. By the end of the novel, Lara has sorted her priorities and knows what she wants in life.
Remember Me? (★★★) has an intriguing premise: what if you lost your memory from the last three years, and found your life is completely different? New appearance, new job, new set of friends, a marriage? Now if that happened to me, I’d have a full-blown panic attack. But in typical Kinsella fashion, Lexi uses these positive changes (she’s gorgeous! She’s the boss! She has a hot, rich husband!) to her advantage and attempts to put the pieces of the puzzle together in a humorous way. How did she go from poor and struggling to a success? There are two accidents in the novel, and I had such a great theory going from about page 50 that was completely debunked in the last three chapters. Prepare for the twist!
Though it’s mostly discussed through Lexi’s romantic entanglements — her husband versus Jon, the successful but laid-back architect her husband employs — Kinsella touches upon glossy exteriors and their hidden flaws. On the surface, it looks like Lexi woke up to the perfect life. But those perfections do not make up Lexi, a quirky, fun, kind, flawed individual. She has a beautiful, state-of-the-art, magazine-spread home, but there’s nothing in there that feels personal, homey, or lived in. She’s the head of a department in a big company, but her employees see her as a cutthroat snake, something Lexi most certainly is not. She’s married to a gorgeous businessman, who fits everything on a dream checklist, but that checklist does not equal a dream relationship. It seems perfect and wonderful and safe, but flaws make life enjoyable. And in the case of Lexi’s relationship with Jon, they are far more equal to each other, and that’s a healthy lifestyle.
I read Kinsella at just the right time in my life. As I alluded to a few weeks ago, the beginning of 2016…well, sucked. Kinsella brought smiles and humor. And in each of the novels I read, I found a little something to relate to that also lifted me up. Can You Keep a Secret? spoke to me on a billion levels, most especially in the career fumbles and trying to prove oneself. I’ve Got Your Number shared the same fluctuating confidence and self-doubt I experience daily, and The Undomestic Goddess reminded me that it’s possible to try new things and still remain exactly who you are. Twenties Girl taught me to be bold, and Remember Me? encouraged me to look beyond the glossy exterior and into the heart of things.
I’m sure plenty of readers felt the same way about her novels, for any of the protagonists in any of their situations. Kinsella’s books are semi-predictable, they’re quick reads, and you can guarantee some laughter. But I think that’s what makes them so enjoyable: her voice is accessible and relatable to so many women. You can’t help but love the characters and wince over their hilariously embarrassing situations. You’re glad this isn’t your life, and at the same time, this is your life. And it brings such comfort.
Have you read Kinsella? What are some of your favorite books?