October 10, 2016
Lydia's Party by Margaret Hawkins
Finished on May 5, 2016
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)
Lydia is having a party. She's hosting her midwinter bash, a Christmas party she threw a month late one year, which has now become an annual tradition. Her guests--six friends who bonded twenty years ago over their budding careers, their love of art and food, their romances, their dogs--think they know all there is to know about one another, but tonight Lydia prepares to shock them with a shattering announcement.
As we follow these friends through their party preparations, we meet seven remarkable women, each of whom is navigating the grocery-shopping hassles of daily chores while also meditating in stolen moments on messy relationships and dreams deferred--or, in the case of Norris, astounding success.
Later, over a feast, and with Lydia's huge dog, Maxine, warming their feet, the friends swap stories, laugh uproariously, air a few grievances. All are pondering their lives, wondering "what's next?" now that the anticipation of new love or a new job no longer seems life altering. Yet as this particular evening unfolds, these friends discover a bond that does indeed alter all their lives.
Exquisitely written, profoundly moving, and filled with aha moments, Lydia's Party is sure to appeal to fans of Anne Tyler, Anna Quindlen, and Helen Simonson. Here is a novel about friendship, and how the everyday foibles, deepest fears, and fiercest desires of seven women can illuminate the meaning of happiness, love, and live itself.
It's been quite some time since I've read a women's friendship novel. I used to love this type of book, but after a while they all tend to follow a similar pattern: one divorcee, one single involved with an unattainable man, one with a cancer diagnosis, yada-yada-yada. The cover art for Lydia's Party caught my eye when the book was first published, but I held off, not really needing to buy another book, only to have it sit on one of my shelves for years. I came across the book while perusing the shelves at my library and decided to finally give into my curiosity about this novel.
Lydia's Party begins on the morning of Lydia's annual winter party, bringing to mind Virginia Woolf's classic Mrs. Dalloway. I enjoyed the domestic details as Lydia prepares for her guests, but the alternating points-of-view led to some confusion about which character was which and the overall tone of the story went from something light to a more negative read. I began to look forward to finishing in order to move on to my next book.
I loved Five Fortunes (Beth Gutcheon) and Talk Before Sleep (Elizabeth Berg), but Lydia's Party was a disappointment. I love the cover art, but I can't even come up with a single favorite passage to share. I'm glad I didn't spend my money on the book and I'm sorry that I can't even recommend borrowing a copy from the library. Perhaps it's time to reread Mrs. Dalloway!