Since the death of her mother more than a decade ago, Tilly Farmer has worked hard to keep her fledgling family together. Through her father’s alcoholism and small town gossip, Tilly and sisters Luanne and Darcy have struggled to stay close and united. And her anchor since high school has been Tyler, her all-American, rugged and sports fanatical husband — and her best friend Susanna, a woman on whom she has relied heavily over the years.
Now, at 32, Tilly is happy to report she is happy — her father is sober; she loves her job as a guidance counselor at Westlake High, where she passes wisdom to America’s youth; she and Tyler are trying for a baby. Content in the town in which she grew up and never dreaming of anything more, Tilly would proudly proclaim her life as “perfect.” Maybe not fantastic, maybe not incredible, but good. Content.
In the hot, steamy days of summer, Tilly meanders to the local fair, where she glides into a tent manned by Ashley Simmons. As Tilly awkwardly updates her old friend on her life, Ashley sneers at Tilly’s pat answers and feigned enthusiasm for what others would see as a hum-drum existence. What Tilly would see as a hum-drum existence — if only she could. “There’s more to life than husbands and babies, Tilly,” Ashley says, and with a flash, Tilly can see that, too. In fact, Tilly can see lots of things — before they happen. And it’s going to change everything.
Allison Winn Scotch’s The One That I Want is all about those dreams deferred — the hopes we have for ourselves when we’re still fresh and young, and then the quiet lives we eventually settle for. Some of the time. Beyond that, it’s the story of a family — a wounded family — and how they must come together, get angry and really talk before things can get better.
What I liked about the story was our anchor, Tilly, a woman who fills her days heading up the prom committee and choosing the school musical — Grease! — because she’s unable to put the past behind her. Aware that her marriage is far from sizzling, it’s still impossible to compute that Tyler, a man she’s loved since she was sixteen, is now just a bump on the couch in front of ESPN. Fixing others’ problems seems to be better than confronting her own — until she has no choice but to acknowledge them. With Ashley’s gift of “clarity,” Tilly finally grows a backbone.
The dynamics between the three Everett sisters really made the novel for me, illuminating how complicated and awesome it is to be a sibling. After her mother’s death, Tilly felt responsible for the younger girls — then felt terribly guilty when she couldn’t protect them. This has been a vicious, repeating pattern over the years, this desire to change what cannot be unchanged and foresee bad things before they happen. Ironic, then, considering the “powers” Tilly suddenly has.
While The One That I Want has a touch of that magical realism we usually see in books by Sarah Addison Allen, I didn’t question Tilly’s new abilities. Within the context of the story, they definitely worked, adding a new dimension to a familiar plot. I found the characters and dialogue realistic and could relate to each of them in turn. While it irked me how much the girls maligned their father, especially rebellious Darcy, I couldn’t blame them for their mistrust.
I read the book quickly and enjoyed watching the burgeoning relationships, but the destruction of others was difficult to experience. Scotch did a remarkable job of documenting breakdowns in a realistic fashion, but it felt a bit like watching a trainwreck. Maybe that was the point. Regardless, my stomach was knotted on more than one occasion — and that took my enjoyment level down a notch.
For fans of family dynamics, women’s fiction and contemporary dramas, The One That I Want would make a fine addition to your to-be-read stack. Just be prepared for a few twists and a little sadness before the sunshine, too.
4 out of 5!
Review copy provided by TLC Book Tours