Review: When it Happens to You – Molly Ringwald

when it happens to you

Title: When it Happens to You
Author: Molly Ringwald
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: August 14, 2012
Source/Format: Library / Hardcover, 256 pages
Opening Sentence: “As far as Greta knew, there was nothing in the sky that night.”
Author Website | Goodreads | Amazon

When it happens to you, you will be surprised. That thing they say about how you knew all the time, but just weren’t facing it? That might be the case, but nevertheless, there you will be.

Molly Ringwald mines the complexities of modern relationships in this gripping and nuanced collection of interlinked stories. Writing with a deep compassion for human imperfection, Ringwald follows a Los Angeles family and their friends and neighbors while they negotiate the hazardous terrain of everyday life—revealing the deceptions, heartbreak, and vulnerability familiar to us all.

In “The Harvest Moon,” a stay-at-home mom grapples with age, infertility, and an increasingly distant husband. In “Ursa Minor,” a former children’s television star tries to rebuild his life after being hospitalized for “exhaustion.” An elderly woman mourns the loss of her husband and her estranged relationship with her daughter in “The Little One.” In “My Olivia,” a single mother finds untapped reserves of strength to protect her flamboyant six-year-old son who wishes only to wear dresses and be addressed as Olivia. And in the devastating title story, a betrayed wife chronicles her pain and alienation, leading to an eviscerating denouement.

As the lives of these characters converge and diverge in unexpected ways, Ringwald reveals a startling eye for the universality of loss, love, and the search for connection. An unflinching yet poignant examination of the intricacies of the human heart, When It Happens to You is an auspicious literary debut.

I was really interested in this book for two reasons:

  1. Molly Ringwald
  2. I love the idea of a book written in short stories.

Molly Ringwald sure didn’t disappoint me with this one. (A lot of people are wary of books written by celebrities because, unless they have a ghostwriter, it will probably be shit. I don’t know if I agree with that in general, but I certainly don’t agree with it in the case of Molly Ringwald.)

When it comes to being a fiction author I think she has great potential. Her writing flows seemingly effortlessly and is pleasant to read without being exceedingly easy (this is ADULT fiction, after all) or difficult. I never got the feeling the writing or the story was trying too hard and I was able to sympathize, if not empathize, with a lot of what was happening. Had someone been in the room with me they would have heard my “aw”s of appreciation at the end of one particular story. (Okay, fine. It was My Olivia.)

My Olivia was one of the stories that really stuck out to me (along with When it Happens to You, the story the book is named after). It was sweet and heartbreaking all at once and something I wouldn’t mind reading again as a stand-alone. In fact, I wouldn’t mind reading the entire novel again, but maybe not until after some time has passed.

When it Happens to You managed to be harrowing but hopeful at the same time. Molly Ringwald really got into the minds of these characters and made them dynamic and real when shown in the situations they were thrown into and without too much unneeded fluff and background story. I was definitely rooting for some characters whole-heartedly and others not so much (which is totally part of the fun of reading).

I read somewhere that someone was dissatisfied because it seemed all the characters in the stories were well off (at least middle class usually), but I really see no problem with that. The main focus points in the story are in a good place financially and are obviously surrounded by people (neighbors, friends, et cetera) who are in somewhat of the same situation. I don’t see this as anything different from real life. Honestly, that’s just how cliques (for lack of a better word) are. Sigh, I just wanted to get that out.

Anyway, this is a book that I want to have sitting on my bookshelf, waiting for the next read. There are good characters, a good story, and some difficult topics handled with amazing care that I know a lot of people will love. While I don’t know that it will be everybody’s cup of tea, I will definitely put a bug in people’s ears to try it. I’d have to say this was a successful push into the world of fiction for Molly Ringwald.

Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

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