Saturday, March 2, 2019

Book Review: "I'm Fine and Neither Are You" by Camille Pagán

"It takes courage to be yourself when everyone expects you to be someone else."

Penelope Ruiz-Kar is the glue holding her family together. She's the breadwinner, working in the development office of a medical school. But much to her chagrin, she's also the disciplinarian of her two children, and often the cook, cleaner, and organizer, despite the fact that her husband Sanjay is a stay-at-home dad while picking up some freelance writing jobs.

All too often she's frustrated with everything and everyone, and wonders how she's strayed so far from her dreams of being a writer of children's books.

Penelope is also tremendously envious of her best friend, Jenny. Jenny always looks like she's posing for a magazine, her house is always perfectly clean and inviting, her daughter is polite and charming, her lifestyle blog influences many women, and she and her husband still have passionate sex—a lot. How can Jenny accomplish it all without breaking a sweat when Penelope just wants a do-over, perhaps of her whole life?

When a sudden tragedy illuminates the fact that Jenny's life isn't quite as perfect as it seems, Penelope is thrown for a loop. She has to stop pretending everything is fine in all aspects of her life, and she needs to be more honest—and that needs to start with Sanjay. They both agree that things in their marriage could use some work, so each makes a list of changes they want the other to make, and each promises complete honesty.

"Something between us had shifted over the course of our marriage, particularly the last two to three years. We had gone from being lovers to best friends to...roommates who routinely irritated each other. If I was honest with myself, that was what it felt like most of the time."

Total honesty seems like a good idea...but in reality it causes more problems than it solves, especially as Penelope starts becoming a little too honest with people around her. And while she and Sanjay want to commit to fixing their marriage, it isn't as easy as they thought it would be. Is it possible at all? Is their marriage destined to fail and are they powerless to stop it, or is there something they need to do?

Camille Pagán's I'm Fine and Neither Are You is a funny, thought-provoking, poignant look at how difficult it can be to balance marriage, work, and family, and not kill yourself—or each other—in the process. It's also a look at the lies we tell each other—and ourselves—and how uncovering the truth is so difficult and often painful, but it's truly necessary.

This was a quick, enjoyable book that I read over the course of the day. I had never read anything of Pagán's before, but I really liked her balance of humor, poignancy, emotion, and soul-searching. This is definitely a book that made me realize that whenever I think a person may have it all and I'm envious, that I don't really know the challenges they're facing.

Lake Union Publishing and Amazon First Reads provided me an advance copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making it available!

The book will be published April 1, 2019.

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