Book review: ‘Objects Of My Affection’ by Jill Smolinski

Lucy Bloom is having a rough year. After finally facing her 19-year-old son’s drug addiction, she’s decided to send him to a rehab facility — but has no way to pay for it. Determined to help Ash no matter the cost, she sells her house and personal possessions, eventually finding herself sharing a room with a friend’s toddler. She’s recently split from her boyfriend, Daniel, after he grew too tired of dealing with Lucy’s denial to stick around. Oh, and she’s now unemployed.

Officially adrift, Lucy relies upon the mediocre success of a de-cluttering book she wrote to get a new gig helping a high-profile client — who happens to be both an artist and a hoarder — empty her home. Now well-versed in letting things go, Lucy sets to work help Marva Meier Rios decide what should stay and what should go . . . all in relative secrecy, of course, as Marva’s fame is sure to attract unsavory media attention. But as Lucy gets to know the cantankerous artist, she realizes some things — some big things — just might be worth saving.

Jill Smolinski’s Objects Of My Affection is an entertaining story with more heart than I expected. Having read and enjoyed Smolinski’s The Next Thing On My List years ago, I’m familiar with the author’s humor — which is just the right amount of self-deprecating and laugh-out-loud silly. Though hoarding itself is not funny, Marva’s outlandish personality is. And the fact that Lucy has to grow a spine and stand up to her? Even better.

Though I occasionally sided with Daniel, Lucy’s estranged boyfriend, in the push-and-pull dynamics associated with parenting a teenager like Ash, I couldn’t help but feel for Lucy. She’s a single mother, a woman who has given up so much in return for so little — and I couldn’t imagine the feeling of suddenly finding yourself both unemployed and homeless. Now a thirty-something vagabond, Lucy is doing the best she can with her limited resources. And though it would be easy to cast “blame” on her regarding her son’s addiction, I couldn’t help but wonder what I would do in a similar circumstance. It wouldn’t be pretty.

Objects Of My Affection isn’t a romance in any traditional sense, but there is quite a bit of love here: love between Daniel and Lucy, who I desperately hoped would work things out; love between Lucy and her son, of course, even when things are complicated; love between Marva and her son, who doesn’t think he’s ever measured up to the affection his mother feels for her paintings. And there’s Marva’s love affair with stuff — tons of it. And everywhere. As Lucy made inroads toward clearing Marva’s California estate, my stomach turned. The artist’s anxiety practically shimmered on the page . . . and I can’t imagine having to disperse my worldly possessions by a certain date. Even if it’s self-imposed.

Though some aspects of the plot are predictable, I loved the dynamic between Lucy and Daniel and feel like Smolinski’s novel is a grown-up version of the coming-of-age tale. For one who has had her blinders on for so long, Lucy waking from the ignorance of her son’s problems and subsequently creating a whole new life was inspiring. And it certainly got me thinking about what I need — and don’t need — hanging around.

4 out of 5!

ISBN: 1451660758 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for my honest review

Book review: ‘The Next Thing On My List’ by Jill Smolinski

Get a massage.
Eat ice cream in public.
Wear sexy shoes.
Take Mom and Grandma to see Wayne Newton.
Change someone’s life.

After a car accident claims the life of her passenger, a woman she barely knows, June Parker is left with a heart full of guilt — and one carefully written listed. Called “20 Things To Do Before I Turn 25,” the list belongs to Marissa Jones — a young woman whom June met at a Weight Watchers meeting and befriended not long before the crash. After losing 100 pounds, Marissa had just begun to fully experience life . . . and had quite a bit left to do.

And since she wouldn’t be able to, June decided she would — and all before Marissa’s birthday.

Adrift at her job in Los Angeles, June is a fledgling writer who typically divides her days between fighting with Lizbeth, her type-A boss, and staring at the disgusting rattail poking out of her coworker’s scalp. June is boyfriendless and carefully cocooned in her boring life before the accident that changes everything — including her own outlook. Suddenly, completing the list — especially at the prodding of Troy, Marissa’s handsome older brother — gives June’s own life purpose. And it’s only through her dogged determination to see this one thing through that she realizes who she is.

Jill Smolinski’s The Next Thing On My List isn’t anywhere near the sobfest you would expect it to be, considering our narrator is completing tasks dreamed up by a dead woman. It’s actually an incredibly entertaining, heartwarming and inspirational novel that had me flipping the pages from day one.

The strength of book, for me, came in the form of June and Smolinski’s sense of humor, which was pitch-perfect. Any off-color jokes would certainly have not been well-received by the audience — me — but we never got that point. The Next Thing On My List struck the perfect balance between remembering Marissa and her life while still allowing the characters to grow and move on. When we could have easily become mired in a depressing tale, Smolinski’s humorous and fast-paced writing kept us moving forward. I laughed out loud so many times in the book, dog-earing pages with quotes I wanted to remember. Inspirational ones, like this:

Life is funny, I thought as I hoisted my leg high and over the seat. People are living too much or too little, and I wondered if anyone out there is living the right amount.

Smolinski also did a great job of balancing June’s personal life with what she does at work — which is where most of us spend all our time, anyway. For once, June isn’t a publicist or a magazine editor or a New York City fashion maven; she’s a copywriter for an L.A.-based group which encourages carpooling as a way to cut down on traffic. I surely appreciated the change of pace and enjoyed reading about the world of advertising. June’s coworkers were all very funny, fleshed-out folks, too. Nothing kills a novel faster for me than a dry, one-dimensional ensemble.

Fans of women’s fiction will enjoy June’s adventures and maybe shed a tear or two (I won’t judge). And more than anything, what I took away from the novel was this: live your life to the fullest. Create lists. Fall in love. Get scared. Don’t hide from your feelings. We get one shot, one opportunity, one moment to shape our own lives — so jump in and take it. And since I’ll be 25 myself in a few short months, you might just find my own list around here sometime soon!

4 out of 5!

ISBN: 0307351297 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website
Personal copy purchased by Meg