Child’s pose. Side plank. Downward dog. Corpse pose.
Sound foreign — and maybe a little scary? It does for four women in New York City, too — at least, it did. For the ladies at Prana, a Brooklyn-based yoga studio, life has become a complicated balance between the dreams they once had for themselves and the reality of the life they’ve created. And yoga just might be a way to clarity.
Book editor Sabine fantasizes about writing her own great novel — only to spend each day editing the stereotypical tripe of others. Once a great and accomplished photographer, Naomi now struggles to find creative inspiration through web design as she raises her young son. Bess, a tabloid journalist, aspires to more than writing copy on a fallen starlet’s nip-slip. And Charlie, owner of a Brooklyn-based yoga studio, is the one who brings them all together — and struggles to remain open and honest following a heart-crushing breakup.
All college acquaintances, the women are reunited at a ten-year reunion in the city when they begin chatting about “the way things were” — and how they are now. Eager to drum up business for her fledgling yoga studio, Charlie invites Bess, Sabine and Naomi to an introductory beginner’s class starting on Saturday mornings. And though each woman has a different reason for showing up week in and week out, show up they do — and learn plenty about themselves in the process.
Zoe Fishman’s Balancing Acts was an inspirational, surprisingly upbeat novel centering around the complicated lives of four people — all women who, by the close of the novel, felt like friends. Fishman does a fantastic job of giving us enough information about each woman to allow us to relate to their predicaments without the story breaking into cliches or random information. I saw a bit of myself in each character, especially Sabine, and could definitely relate to their problems and attempts to heal what has become broken in their lives. Given that the story is told in third person, this feat is especially remarkable to me. I usually relate better to novels told from one person’s perspective, but I wasn’t bothered at all by the omniscient narration.
While Charlie, Bess, Sabine and Naomi have unique difficulties — some emotional, some physical — each has a small sense that something is “off.” And while Balancing Acts could have focused on all of the problems, Fishman chooses instead to highlight the ways in which the ladies are working toward something — instead of away from it. It made me feel, in a word, uplifted. And the love stories made my little heart pitter-patter with excitement.
And I’ve read enough bad dialogue in my life to recognize great conversation, and let me say this: Fishman’s conversational skills are fantastic. We weren’t dropped in and out of the ladies’ chats, left to fill in all the details, but we also weren’t privvy to long, meandering conversations that don’t seem to go anywhere. I could clearly hear each woman speaking and appreciated the natural speech, complete with the occasional “um” and long pause. Because, you know, that’s how we talk. And I could definitely appreciate that.
Though each had a reason for giving yoga a try and stepping beyond what had been comfortable, yoga is just a frame for the larger tale. If you know nothing about exercise — or, like me, read this book with a cupcake in one hand — fear not: the jargon is supplemental, easy to understand and not distracting.
With references to Facebook, texting and other hip conveniences, I worry that the novel will feel a bit dated in the not-so-distant future. But for the moment? Balancing Acts was a fresh, fun and engrossing look at friendship, breaking through emotional barriers and marching confidently into a beautiful future. Fans of women’s fiction will find shades of themselves in Fishman’s characters — and might find themselves wanting to dash to a nearby yoga studio!
4 out of 5!
Review copy provided by TLC Book Tours