Caroline Jacobs, with her daughter Polly cheering her on, sets off for her hometown with the goal of confronting Emily Kaplan, her childhood best friend who publically unfriended her in the school cafeteria 25 years earlier. Caroline feels that the rejection changed her “life trajectory” and turned her into the overly cautious, meek pushover she became.
Of course, the road trip becomes a journey of self-discovery. It is not just the bully Emily that Caroline must confront. There are other issues and secrets she must face because she is so obsessed with the past that she cannot clearly see her present.
There is a bit of a mystery involved. We learn that someone named Lucy was significant in her past, but information about her identity and fate is revealed gradually. In the first discussion about Lucy, Caroline admits “Almost everything she had ever said to her husband about Lucy had been a lie.” This statement proves to be an exaggeration and, indeed, her entire reaction seems overstated when the full truth is revealed.
There are several quirky characters who add interest (a pet mortician, a man grieving a parrot’s death, a blind philosopher), but they do little to add realism.
As a former teacher, I enjoyed the insights into school life. Certainly the cliques and the machinations of teenaged girls are realistically portrayed. Caroline’s relationship with her teenaged daughter is also well-developed. And, because of her outspokenness, Polly serves as a great foil for her mother.
There is an appeal to this book: after all, who wouldn’t like to have a perfect comeback against a childhood nemesis? It does not, however, offer much thematic depth; what Caroline learns is predictable.
This novel will receive praise from readers who want a quick, unchallenging, feel-good read.