Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The Way We Weren't by Phoebe Fox

I don't think I've ever read a book quite like The Way We Weren't by Phoebe Fox. As a teenager, Marcie Malone found out she was pregnant just before graduation. Her boyfriend handled it well, suggesting that they should marry and deal with the pregnancy together. But, that meant giving up all of her plans. Marcie knew exactly where she wanted to go and what she wanted to do for a living and all that ended the moment she saw two pink lines.

Decades later, Marcie and Will are in their early 40s and have never had a child. The first pregnancy ended in miscarriage and they never managed to get pregnant, again, till now. But, the recent pregnancy wasn't as welcomed by her husband and ended in miscarriage, as well. On her way back to work after a few days off to recover from the miscarriage, Marcie inexplicably passes her exit and keeps driving, all the way from Atlanta to Florida. There, she is taken in by an elderly curmudgeon named Herman Flint who has his own issues to deal with. When Marcie ends up staying in Florida to consider her options, she slowly works her way into the heart of locals and eventually figures out why Flint is such an angry old man. 

As her stay in Florida keeps getting extended, she also meets a potter who is carefree, refuses to be boxed in by a traditional job, and encourages Marcie to return to her artistic roots. Will Marcie ever return to her career in hotel management and her husband? Or will temptation and frustration with a life gone in a totally different direction from her plans draw her away? Can Marcie help Flint resolve his own issues and start enjoying his life, again? 

There are some little side things happening that fill out this story. The turtles on the cover are relevant and there's a hurricane that hits the island where Marcie is staying. And, Marcie comes up with some creative ways to deal with a problem she encounters. 

Recommended - I found The Way We Weren't utterly engrossing. I couldn't wait to get back to it, each evening. My life went off the rails much like Marcie's, but for much different reasons. So, I could relate in some ways to her struggle. And, I think since it's not particularly graphic, women who've been through miscarriage and/or infertility will feel seen and understood when they read it, not doubly traumatized. So, I wouldn't say it needs a trigger warning. 

I did think the story took a slightly odd turn about 3/4 of the way into the book (and I had a few minor plot or detail quibbles — very minor) but I also felt like . . . OK, this was Marcie feeling her way, rocked by her recent loss and confused, trying to make a decision about who she was, who she wanted to be, where to take her life, next. So, while it seemed like there was a strange tack in the direction of the story, in the end it felt right because she needed that experience to help her figure out what's next. I loved this story and found it relatable and fresh. I'll be looking for more by Phoebe Fox!

My thanks to Berkley Books for the review copy!

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