Sunday, April 7, 2013

Book Review: "All You Could Ask For" by Mike Greenberg

I've watched ESPN's Mike and Mike in the Morning, so I'm familiar with Mike Greenberg's on-air persona. I'm a fan of his, but I'll tell you, nothing could have prepared me for his utter mastery in writing a novel which has as its primary characters three women—Brooke, who was raised to be exactly what she is, the perfect suburban housewife, married to her college sweetheart and raising twins; Samantha, the emotionally fragile yet physically tough-as-nails athlete, whose whirlwind marriage ends shortly after it begins; and Katherine, the most powerful female executive on Wall Street, who has been working for years for the man who broke her heart.

The first half of Greenberg's pretty fantastic novel, All You Could Ask For, spins the stories of these three women. While their stories don't quite reach Sex and the City-type adventures, each character has her own strength and quirks, and Greenberg hits all of their voices quite well, without slipping into stereotypical female traits or behaviors. Nothing that happens to any of them is earth-shattering or unique, but each character is tremendously engaging that you want to know what will happen next. Will Brooke find the right place to have the naked pictures of her taken so she can give them to her husband on his 40th birthday? Will Samantha take her philandering husband back, or will she embark on another magical relationship while training for a triathlon in Hawaii? And will Katherine be able to let her guard down enough to find emotional happiness?

SPOILERS AHEAD (although some of this has been mentioned in certain book reviews).

The three women meet in an online support group for breast cancer survivors. Each woman has a different diagnosis and a different way of handling the disease and its effects, and also approaches her relationship with the other women in a different way. The second half of the book deals with the unanswered questions that follow a cancer diagnosis and treatment, the differing emotions each person experiences and the choices they make, and what happens next. It is sometimes emotional, sometimes perplexing, sometimes hopeful, but Greenberg does his best to be matter-of-fact in his storytelling without being maudlin, and for me, none of the notes he hit seemed at all false.

I know I read fast, but I literally read this book in about two and a half hours this evening. That's how much these characters appealed to me even though I'm not a woman, and that's how emotionally invested I found myself. Mike Greenberg's writing doesn't wow you, but it pulls you in. It makes you imagine these three women at the different points in their lives, and I just needed to know what came next. Greenberg's voice seemed so authentic; this isn't a man writing the way he'd want a woman to behave, this is a man observant enough to know how they behave, how they speak, and how they act, and that adds to this book's appeal.

I've said many times I know I've enjoyed a book tremendously when I wonder what happened to the characters after the book ended. That was definitely the case with this book. I was moved, I was entertained, and I was hooked, and I'm thankful to have found this book. I hope others find it equally as enjoyable.

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