Monday, January 5, 2015

Book Review: "You Could Be Home By Now" by Tracy Manaster

Alison and Seth Collier are high school teachers (she teaches history, he teaches journalism) who are dealing (badly) with a terrible loss. In an effort to try and regain some balance and try to rebuild their lives, they decide to move across the country to Arizona, where they both take jobs at The Commons, a high-end retirement community. Alison will be the community historian, as the CEO wants to create a sense of history (even if it's not quite true), and Seth will be the editor of the community newspaper.

But while Alison quickly gets acclimated to their new life and her new job, Seth continues struggling. And if covering birth announcements of the residents' grandchildren isn't stimulating enough, he is rather underwhelmed by the community's biggest scandal—one longtime resident is discovered to be housing her young grandchild, despite community rules that no children are allowed to live there. Some residents feel that she should be allowed to continue given the circumstances; others believe in following the letter of community rules, while the CEO is most concerned about the effect the scandal may have on property values.

Not only does You Could Be Home By Now follow Seth and Alison's efforts to regain control of their lives, it also provides the perspective of Ben, a community resident dealing with the aftereffects of his own personal tragedy—which come to light in a peculiar way; and Lily, the teenage granddaughter of Ben's neighbor and a self-proclaimed "beauty blogger" who has been banned from social media by her parents. Each has a different viewpoint onto the scandal in The Commons, and has their own issues to cope with as well.

This book struck me as a bit quirky, although I think it was perhaps intended to be a satirical look at the constricting nature of homeowners' associations. I really enjoyed the premise of the book and found it started off really well, but while many of Tracy Manaster's characters are well-drawn, ultimately I found too many of them to be unlikeable, and thus difficult to remain engaged in their stories. Manaster had an interesting approach to dialogue in that her characters didn't quite say what they meant to say, or at times you needed to figure out what they were saying.

In the end, disappointingly, this book didn't resonate for me, although given the nearly 5-star rating it has on Amazon (and a fairly strong rating on Goodreads as well), perhaps I missed something, so I wouldn't dissuade you from giving this a try just because of my opinion.

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