One of the things I love about books is their endless power to surprise you. When I was offered a copy of Laurie Boris’ The Joke’s On Me, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect — but I accepted based on the first chapter. It sounded funny. Punchy. And it didn’t let me down.
When Frankie Goldberg pulls back into Woodstock, N.Y., with just her few possessions lodged in a bright red convertible, she’s immediately greeted by her sister, Jude, leading a holistic retreat at the family bed and breakfast. Nothing totally unusual — except for the fact that everyone is nude. After recovering from the shock of that encounter, Frankie begins to take inventory of all the changes that have taken place since she moved to Los Angeles — most notably that her mother, once a formidable woman, has been moved to a nursing home.
Frankie, a “menopause baby,” is much younger than Jude — and was never considered the responsible sister, even as Jude cycled through husbands and raised her son, Ethan. After Frankie left home to pursue a life as a comedian and actress, Jude picked up the slack — and she hasn’t let her little sister forget it. Brought together again in their mutual desire to help their mother, Frankie has to finally put down roots — or run away again. But the presence of one Joey Mazzarella, former childhood crush, might make the choosing a little more difficult . . .
Laurie Boris’ The Joke’s On Me is a funny, sweet and realistic story showcasing the love of one family — and the idea that it’s never too late to start over. What really sold me on the novel was Jude and Frankie’s relationship, which felt honest and raw. Though never dramatic, Boris offers readers tender conversations between the women that defy the age gap between them. At the heart of it all, there’s love.
In her author biography, Boris describes herself as a “closet stand-up comedian” — and I think that humor really shines in The Joke’s On Me. Her sarcasm, rarely mean-spirited, is evident in Frankie’s character, and I immediately felt close to her as a narrator. She’s not without her faults, that’s for sure, but she owns up to them; she’s not without her quirks, either, but they make her lovable. Frankie felt like a friend.
And the love story? Oh, what a sucker I am for first love — and the sweet progression of Joey and Frankie’s relationship melted the little cockles of my heart. I loved that Joey is a baseball coach and Frankie is a lady that grew up appreciating the sport; like her, baseball is the one game I actually enjoy and understand. The frequent ballpark settings were ones I could appreciate!
Quirky, fun and very readable, Boris has crafted a novel with pithy dialogue, dueling sisters and plenty of heart. I read it quickly and enjoyed meeting Boris during the Author Speed Dating session at the Book Blogger Convention, where she sat down to tell me about this book and I immediately squealed, “Laurie Boris! Oh, I have your book!” She looked genuinely surprised and was very kind, and I was happy to tell her I’d already enjoyed her debut novel. And if you’re looking for an amusing read, I think you will, too.
4 out of 5!