Thursday, March 5, 2015

Review: Girl Before a Mirror


Girl Before a Mirror
By Liza Palmer
William Morrow January 2015
384 pages
From the publisher

Girl Before a Mirror

Anna Wyatt is doing some personal rearranging. After her divorce, she takes a dating sabbatical and decides to focus on her job as an advertising executive. If she can hook a big new pharmaceutical client, maybe she can finally nab a promotion and some respect. When she finds the company's long-forgotten shower gel, she knows that this is the way in. But her ordered life takes a turn when she schemes to make the winner of the Romance Cover Model of the Year pageant their new spokesman. The business-minded Anna finds herself swayed by the notion of having some fun, making new friends, and maybe even experiencing a little romance herself.


I'm a bit of a book snob. There, I said it. If something looks like it might be a romance novel or perhaps it could be categorized as "chick lit," I usually keep my distance and plant my flag firmly in the "literary fiction" camp. But this book showed up in my mailbox and I had seen so many bloggers rave about Liza Palmer. I decided to give it a try.


The cover seems pretty...girly, right? I knew I would be frustrated if this book turned out to be all about the perfect pair of shoes and impressing the guy. I didn't need to worry. As the book opens,  Anna is taking slow steps to being confident in her talent and in her choices. She is fighting to be recognized in a a male-dominated industry and is aggravated by the assumption that she can only market "women's things" until she has the realization that women are the ones doing a majority of the buying for their households. Women are the market.


Anna is also finding the freedom to pursue relationships in her own way. When a beautiful new art director is placed on the shower gel account with her, Anna's first reaction is to feel threatened by Sasha's youth and good looks. But the two women find that they can support each other instead of climbing over each to reach the top. Even the romance (and yes, there is of course a romance) is about progressing slowly and recognizing the pain and disappointment that both Anna and Lincoln have experienced with relationships.


Many women find it difficult to rest and to take time to do things that are just fun - pastimes that don't better their homes, their careers, or their families. Anna begins the novel with a condescending attitude towards the women who enjoy the frivolity of romance novels. But she (and maybe, just maybe this reader) begin to see the error of their ways. There is a beautiful moment during the Romance Novel convention where Anna looks around the room and just sees women letting loose. They are snacking, dancing, and enjoying the company of new and old friends without fear of looking silly or the thought that they should be doing something productive. Why is having fun and enjoying something, whether it's a cupcake, a romance novel, or a crazy dance party, a moment to feel guilty?


"Somewhere along the line--probably in the septic tank that was my adolescence--I stopped believing I was the hero of my own story. Or that my story was worthy of a hero at all. I settled because that's all I thought I deserved...Moderation in everything and when I did allow myself to indulge--whether on a big meal or an expensive piece of clothing--the guilt that set in within seconds made it never worth it in the end. In choosing to be good, cautious, and efficient, I talked myself right out of amazing."


It's really wonderful to find a read that simultaneously makes you laugh and think long and hard about the way you treat the people in your life and the way you treat yourself.  I will decidedly be reading more of Liza Palmer's books. 

12 comments:

  1. This sounds great! And I know what you mean about being a "book snob." I don't think of myself as a literary snob, but I reflexively turn away from anything that looks like romance or chick lit. Yet these novels are often beautifully written and thought provoking.

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    1. I'm glad I'm not the only one. It's something I will have to keep working on!

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  2. Hmmm...my thoughts mirror yours when it comes to preferring literary fiction. I probably wouldn't seek this book out, but your post is a valuable reminder to be open to trying new things -- you just might be surprised, in a pleasant way! That's how I felt when trying Jojo Moyes for the first time.

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    1. It's nice to try something new and even better to love it! I somehow haven't read Jojo Moyes yet, but readers seem to really love her books.

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  3. New to me as well and I certainly wouldn't mind trying this one out!

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    1. I'd love to hear what you think if you read it!

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  4. I actually love the cover, it's so sweet! And I'm glad that it made you think. I think it's always a worthwhile book to read when it makes you think in one way or another.

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    1. It is sweet but I always worry that sweet will lead to saccharine. I'm glad it wasn't the case here!

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  5. I'm also a bit of a snob about my books, I think. I will occasionally be in the mood for something light or chick-lit, but I don't really do genre fiction, like thrillers and romances. I don't look down on people who do and honestly, if I had the time to read all of the books, I'd absolutely give these genres a try. But with the limited number of books I can get to in a year, I prefer to read something less predictable. This sounds like it turned out to be a more substantial read than you expected and the issues it deals with make me really want to pick it up.

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    1. I guess I'm not against romance or chick-lit at face value, but I get frustrated when nothing really happens except a meet cute and a happy ending. I want to see the characters grow and change and work through their stuff. So Girl Before a Mirror was perfect for me! :)

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