Ugh, this book. This book in which I actively disliked almost every character. This book in which the person I most related to was a raging alcoholic. This book in which any ounce of sympathy I felt was erased by characters’ selfish behavior and awful personalities. I just . . . I can’t even.
But let’s dive in:
When Andi marries Ethan, a successful and handsome divorcee, she knows he’s a package deal — and that that package includes Sophia and Emily, his two young daughters. Though accepted by Sophia, a preteen searching for a maternal figure as her own mother battles demons, teenage Emily doesn’t warm to having Andi steal her father’s attention. Angry at the power shift in the family, Emily rebels against Andi in every way possible — and manipulates Ethan through guilt to get anything she wants. The stress in their home puts Andi on edge, threatening the marriage that once filled her with so much hope and joy.
To everyone’s surprise, then, it’s Andi who becomes Emily’s strongest supporter when the 17-year-old finds herself in a very difficult position. Stuck between trying to please his wife or his bitter daughter, Ethan vacillates between sticking up for Andi and allowing Emily to walk all over everyone. And when everything comes to a head, decisions must be made — ones that will impact their family forever.
Jane Green’s Another Piece Of My Heart was, for the most part, a novel that felt like a cheese grater to the eyeball. I only stuck with it because I’d received an audio copy and was determined to find if these characters would reach some peace, some redemption, but never felt invested in their journeys. Though I thought I was supposed to sympathize with Andi against monstrous Emily only to “get” what Emily was going through later in the story, all I felt was endless frustration at both women and lukewarm Ethan for being so blind.
Lest this dissolve into a rant, I spent most of the book wanting to put Emily in time-out — forever. The way she manipulated her father and did the whole “evil smile while hugging you” bit was so over-the-top, so cliché, that I often couldn’t help but roll my eyes. I haven’t read much fiction about blended families and can only begin to appreciate the difficult position in which many families find themselves while journeying toward becoming a happy family. That’s not easy. And if Emily wasn’t such a stone-cold, all-out, selfish little lunatic I might have felt something for her. I mean, Andi isn’t her mother; her own mom is passed out somewhere after going on another tear about how “fat” Emily has become, etc. and so forth. She’s in the bottom of a wine glass with no hope of climbing out . . . for a while, anyway.
Another Piece Of My Heart held few surprises and was painful to follow on audio. Aside from the strangeness of having the author herself narrate a story about an American family with her British accent, complete with British slang that would never fall from an American’s lips, I couldn’t stand the portions featuring Emily’s ranting and screaming. The story was so repetitive: Andi pretends to be nice to Emily, assuaging her guilt that she isn’t treating her right; Emily rebels against Andi’s attempts at said niceness, rightfully calling her out for being “fake” with her, “Emily, honey?” nonsense; the two get in a battle royale; Ethan admonishes the women to “talk it out” or some such, completely ignoring the fact that he’s part of the problem.
Oh, the angst. The angst.
After following Andi’s point of view in the book’s first part, we flip to Emily’s first-person accounts of everything going down — and if possible, I hated this even more than Andi’s portion. Emily comes across as so awful and annoying that my only reaction to anything she said or did was revulsion. She acts like such a petulant child that it was impossible to take her seriously, even when she finds herself in a very serious situation. Getting “her side,” if you will, did nothing but frustrate me. And bouncing around to other narrative voices in these sort of awkward monologues didn’t work for me.
I won’t go on. Suffice it to say I was not a fan. While other reviewers have proclaimed the story “truly realistic,” it was far too overblown for me to enjoy. I don’t welcome drama this epic in my own life, and it wasn’t entertaining or enlightening for me. I felt nothing for the characters and basically just wanted it to be over.
But two stars for Janice, the alcoholic mother who undergoes a transformation throughout the narrative. She’s the only one I liked.
2 out of 5!