Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Book Review: The Meryl Streep Movie Club by Mia March

Readers dive into books for many different reasons. Some pick up books to learn information; others choose books that allow them to enrich their literary knowledge; still others seek books that allow them to escape. Avid readers probably do all of these, and many more, in their search for good reading material.

A bit about the book: Mia March's novel The Meryl Street Movie Club is the perfect novel to read for escape. Its strong female characters and engaging plot sucked me into its own private book world for several days this month. Although technically it could be called (the often dreaded term) "chick lit," I found that it fit that genre in the best sense possible.

Sisters Isabel and June are summoned to their family's Maine bed and breakfast by their aunt Lolly. She and their cousin Kat welcomed the girls into their home when an unspeakable accident claimed the lives of the sisters' parents and Kat's father many years ago. During that difficult time (which took place during all three girls' teenage years), the trio grew further apart rather than closer together. None of them has been particularly close in the years since. Instead, they've all gone on to lead very different lives.

Isabel settled into an upper middle class existence with her husband; June raised her son as a single parent; and Kat remained at the bed and breakfast, helping her mother. Each of them is surprised by Lolly's request. Lolly has never been much on family gatherings, other than at major holidays. However, once at the inn, they are rocked by a revelation none of them expected -- and a request none of them can ignore.

Why you want to read it: Simply put, Mia March writes fascinating, realistic characters you will come to love. Each woman has her own issues, and time spent together at the bed and breakfast is exactly what they never knew they desperately needed. Rather than providing a break from their everyday lives, the time they spend at the inn together in the next days days and weeks actually moves each of their lives forward in a profound way.

Intertwined with the novels chapters, told from the women's various points of view, are "movie nights" at the inn, primarily with films starring Lolly's favorite actress Meryl Streep. The women (and bed and breakfast guests who join them from time to time) discuss themes in movies as varied as Out of Africa and The Bridges of Madison County.

The bottom line: March takes what could become a trite, tired storyline and pumps new life into it. Although other "women's club" books have been done (i.e. The Friday Night Knitting Club, or the Jane Austen Book Club), none is so satisfying a read as this one. Isabel, June, Kat, and Lolly became important to me as a reader, their lives entertaining rather than tiring. I cared about each of them, individually and as a whole family. The Meryl Streep Movie Club was a delightful read.

About the author: This is Mia March's first novel. Her second novel, Finding Colin Firth, will release next  summer and features the characters from The Meryl Streep Movie Club. She is a single mother living in Maine with her elementary-school-age child, and (proof that we may well be long-lost soul sisters) cites Anne of Green Gables as one of her favorite childhood books. You can connect with March on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or Goodreads. I was fortunate enough to read this book as part of the September Book Club Selection for the She Reads Blog Network. To read other bloggers' thoughts on the novel, click over to the September Book Club Selection page.

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