REVIEW: The Breakdown Lane by Jacqueline Mitchard

Format:  Audio CD
Genre:  General Fiction
ISBN:  0060759275
Published:  2005 (audio)
Setting:  Sheboygan WI

Rating:  4.5 of 5 stars

Back of the Book Blurb:

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. As the known world sinks precariously from view, the clan must navigate their way through the shoals of love, guilt, and betrayal. Together, with the help of Leo’s parents and Julie’s best friend, they work their way back to solid ground and a new definition of family. No one illuminates modern love, marriage, and parenting better than Jacquelyn Mitchard. Written with her trademark poignancy, humor, and insight, The Breakdown Lane is her most moving, eloquent, and life-affirming work yet.

My Thoughts:

I wasn’t sure about this book when I started it.  I read another Mitchard book last year, and while I enjoyed it, I wasn’t overwhelmed with its greatness.  And truthfully, the first few chapters of this book were hard going because of my utter lack of connection with any of the characters.  Truth be told, I actually could not stand either Leo or Julieanne.  Both were so utterly shallow and superficial, and Leo especially had such a superiority complex toward Julieanne that it made me want to punch him between the eyes.  That much did not change throughout the book.

However, watching Julianne become more multi-demensional, and actually developing some depth as she traversed the difficulties of multiple slerosis, was a really satisfying reading experience.  I really began to appreciate her as she learned how to live with dignity in the wake of Leo’s duplicity, her disease, and looming financial disaster.  I liked that she stripped her life down to what was important, that she really leaned on those family & friends who proved their worth, and that she took her therapist’s advice to get out and get a life rather than living as a victim.  These are not small things, and to emerge from such a life implosion as a reasonably stable and immeasurably stronger person is good stuff – in fiction or in life.

What was perhaps the most enjoyable (for me) was having her reconnect with a childhood love, and having that reignite for her.  I liked that it happened slowly, and that she recognized that it was a good thing…that he was the real deal…and that she didn’t second guess herself into rejecting him.  Why?  Because sometimes that is exactly how life happens, and it is good to celebrate the good, solid, steady relationships…those that might not have fireworks, but prove their mettle just the same.

All in all, this book was a winner for me.  The storyline was good, the writing was good, and together they were something really special.

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