Book review: ‘Downward Dog, Upward Fog’ by Meryl Davids Landau

With a creative, challenging job, boyfriend and crew of good friends, Lorna Crawford should be feeling pretty fulfilled. Things aren’t always perfect, sure, but they’re still pretty good. Life is good. So why is she plagued by doubt and uncertainty?

Spirituality has always been elusive to Lorna. When she finds herself ridden by anxiety and craving comfort, though, a friend introduces her to yoga. The pair head to a silent retreat where Lorna learns to make peace with her inner dialogue and embrace silence, but any sense of relaxation later dissolves in the face of her hard-nosed mother, manipulative coworkers and a distant boyfriend who doesn’t seem to be making an effort. Armed with spiritual guidebooks and a bevy of new experiences, Lorna’s attempts at enlightenment are soon put to the test. Can she emerged unscathed?

Meryl Davids Landaus’s Downward Dog, Upward Fog came to me at just the right moment. Having pretzeled my way into my first yoga class in August, I became fascinated by the art of yoga and the emotional benefits it could have on a nervous-nelly like myself. When I read about a 33-year-old seeking peace and contentment in a fast-paced life, I was all in.

What I loved best about Landau’s novel was her deft way of discussing religion without ever getting heavy-handed. No one wants to feel like they’re being beaten over the head with others’ beliefs, and I appreciated that Lorna experiences all sorts of mystical practices without ever becoming preachy. Her exposure to the teachings of leaders like Eckhart Tolle adds depth to the narrative, and Lorna was a character I could appreciate and root for. She was sincere and open-minded in her approach to understand things that have long eluded her.

The story felt a bit long in the middle and I was never fond of Brad, Lorna’s “too busy for you” boyfriend, but the overall message was positive: appreciate the little things. Life is a journey, as we all know — it’s about living in the moment, taking a step outside our whirlwind minds and realizing the destination is not our final answer. Part novel and part self-help guide (but not in a cheesy way), Downward Dog, Upward Fog would be an uplifting read for fans of women’s fiction looking for a little space and clarity in their own lives.

4 out of 5!

ISBN: 1936586355 ♥ GoodreadsLibraryThingAmazonAuthor Website
Review copy provided by author in exchange for my honest review

Book review: ‘Balancing Acts’ by Zoe Fishman

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!

ISBN: 0061711802 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website

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Review copy provided by TLC Book Tours