Sometimes life doesn't turn out the way we planned. In Robyn Harding's newest novel, Chronicles of a Midlife Crisis, married couple Lucy and Trent discover the truth in this statement the hard way. After being married for almost twenty years, they've come to know each another better than anyone else. Trent is the first to admit it isn't enough, as he's explaining his leaving to his wife:
"We haven't really been connected for years now, Lucy. We work, we co-parent, we pay the mortgage together, but we're not together, not like we used to be."
Lucy, unprepared for his attack, doesn't understand.
"It's called life, Trent," [she] fires back. "It's called raising a family."
With that, Harding begins this story of two people who love one another, but aren't necessarily still in love with one another. Complicating matters is the couple's teenage daughter Sam, who doesn't really care how her parents feel as long as they stay together like a "normal" family.
Harding uses point of view and narrative voice to lend depth to this light-hearted look at a family in crisis. Lucy and Trent trade off chapters, so that the reader is exposed to both perspectives in the split. The reader learns about Lucy's insecurities, at home and in her job as a prop buyer for a popular WB teen drama. Harding also illustrates both Trent's immature actions and his immense love for his daughter through the chapters written in his voice.
The action intensifies as both Lucy and Trent find themselves in relationships with other people that become too serious too fast. They need time to figure out who they are, not time to build new relationships. Trent gets in over his head with voluptuous coworker Annika, while Lucy finds herself pursued by a teen heartthrob from the television show where she works. Both extramarital affairs spiral out of control, proving that sometimes getting what you want can be disastrous.
Chronicles of a Midlife Crisis proved to be an entertaining read by an author previously unknown to me. Harding is a new contender in the chick lit world, with her witty dialogue and her ultimately sincere examination of marriage.
I have only one gripe: despite the interesting characters and well-rounded plot, the novel gave very few details of setting. Harding lives in Vancouver, Canada, an area that I know little about. To me, setting is an integral part of any book; my favorite novels feature setting almost as an extra character. With a setting outside the United States, I would have loved for it to become a more pivotal part of the book. One reason I love Kathy Reichs' Tempe Brennan mystery series is for the details she gives in the books set in Montreal, a city previously foreign to me.
Robyn Harding is also the author of the novels The Journal of Mortifying Moments, The Secret Desires of a Soccer Mom, and Unravelled; one YA novel; a nonfiction book about Harding's hilarious struggles to raise her family in a more environmentally friendly (and less hormone-enhanced) world; and a story published in the chick lit anthology Girls Night Out.