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More Like Her by Liza Palmer

My introduction to Liza Palmer's books came via the excellent Seeing Me Naked, a book that held so much more for me than the title (or cover) seemed to imply. I've reread it and handed it to so many people since then, and I've been looking forward to the release of More Like Her for some time now. I purchased my copy back when it was released and then just . . . held onto it (as I often do) for the right night. And though I went in expecting it this time, Ms. Palmer surprised me with the level of ambition with which she approached this novel. Once again, I think the cover (which I quite like) is quietly deceptive as to its contents, though those red shoes do seem more ominous than they did when I originally picked it up. I kind of love that. The title I find perfectly fitting as well. So.

Frances and her best friend Jill are guidance counselors at the prestigious Markham School--a prep academy in San Francisco. Having recently and unwillingly become single again after yet another ill-fated voyage with one of the male teachers at the school, Frances is thrown for an additional loop by Emma Dunham. Emma is the new headmistress at Markham. Poised, witty, and clearly successful, Emma is everything Frances would like to hate but can't because she's just so nice, so genuine. As time passes, she admires Emma from afar until a bullying situation brings them closer together. On the cusp of becoming real friends, the two women are torn apart by the unthinkable. In the aftermath, Frances and Jill, their new friend and colleague Lisa, and their respective husbands and/or significant others struggle to make sense of the tragedy and their individual roles in it.

Palmer opens with the following epigraph:
One can't build little white picket fences to keep nightmares out. --Anne Sexton
And that pretty much sums up the tone of this novel. The epigraph is followed by a truly harrowing two-page prologue and then by chapter one, entitled "Lipstick and Palpable Fear." So, yeah. I pretty much loved it. Like her characters, Palmer's writing always has more going on under the surface than at first meets the eye. You think you're going into your standard tale of down-on-her-luck girl has romantic woes and makes good with her feisty personality and killer shoes. But beyond the setup you are treated to a thoughtful exploration of what it means to know someone. Really know someone. And how impossible it is to ever know just what's going on behind the superficial. Also, because it's Liza Palmer, you get wonderfully nuanced family relationships and tentative romance. One of my favorite early passages in which Frances describes her best friend Jill:
Amid all of her more shallow inclinations and superficial dress-downs of other women, Jill has always seen me as beautiful. Beautiful in a way I have yet to see myself. Beautiful in a way I don't even think she sees herself as, despite all evidence to the contrary. The night Ryan left I sobbed to Jill that my brown hair was too drab. It's mysterious, she said. I think I should take off a few pounds. You've got great tits, she said in a particularly uncomfortable moment. I have no style. Let's face it, I wailed, it boils down to me wearing a lot of beaded cardigans. You're rocking a hearth-wear-meets-vintage thing! It's effortlessly perfect, she said. I may believe I'm not up to snuff, but Jill? Jill thinks I can date the Great Gatsby.
Win. I love this description of the way our best friends see us. It certainly rang true for me. And that certainty of theirs that you can date the Great Gastby is what sees you through so many of the curve balls life throws you. This is a tough book to read. The tragedy is truly horrific. And timely, unfortunately. But Ms. Palmer tempers it with emotionally resonant scenes and moments of levity that left me turning the pages eagerly. I like how she hits you with the big scene fairly early on, but doesn't ever blow her wad too soon. She takes all her pages to get the job done and I was happy with where she left things. More Like Her is a warm and exploratory novel, filled with big questions and true friends. Recommended.

Buy: Amazon B&N The Book Depository

Linkage
A Bookish Way of Life - " . . . will definitely leave you wondering about the people you know and how well you really do know them."
A Soul Unsung - " . . . the perfect blend of chick-lit with harsh reality"
Peeking Between the Pages - " . . . a book that I had trouble putting down and finished in a day."

Comments

  1. I've never heard of Liza Palmer, but this sounds like a terrific read.

    And, y'know, any of my friends could date Gatsby if they wanted.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Livi, I really love her books. Start with SEEING ME NAKED and go from there.

      Love your second comment, btw. :)

      Delete
  2. OK, now I'm wondering what the tragedy is. Even so, this sounds great. I love the quote, and how this is not just chick lit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Holly, yeah, not worth spoiling that. But I think you might enjoy this one, nonetheless.

      Delete
  3. Anonymous3:34 PM

    Hi Angie, I'm glad you reviewed this. It was high on my list the minute I learned about it, but I decided not to buy it because I couldn't get a good feel for what it's about. Now I'll have to put it back at the top of the list!

    I ordered Raw Blue, by the way, and I can't wait to get my hands on it!

    Speaking of Gatsby, I read in the Hollywood Reporter that the movie (with DiCaprio) has been pushed from December to summer 2013. I don't remember if you wanted to see it.
    KarenS

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Karen! I think you'd appreciate it. The characters feel like adults. The entire thing felt refreshingly mature.

      I cannot WAIT to hear what you think of Raw Blue.

      I hadn't heard it's been pushed back. That's lame. I was looking forward to it this December . . . Definitely going to see it when it does come out.

      Delete
  4. I work at Barnes & Noble, and ran across this cover. I thought it was another icky chic novel, but your review captured my interest. I feel like I would enjoy it, since it includes that BF perspective which is so true to life sometimes.

    Thank you for sharing this! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My pleasure. I think she always brings more to the table than expected. I recommend her SEEING ME NAKED as well.

      Delete

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