Good Karma Is Good Escapism

Maybe the cover of this book won me over. (My first book features a cute dog on the cover as well.) Maybe it was the title. (Good Karma is intriguing as a concept and pun.) Perhaps the whimsical characters drew me in, insisting on a better Part Two in life. Probably all these qualities made me fall in love with Christina Kelly’s “Good Karma.” It was also just the escape I needed as a pandemic sweeps the Earth.

This month I started a new practice. With a long list of books I intend to read, and more books being added as I go, I needed some accountability. So I selected specific books I would be reading this month, and posted video updates on Instagram.

Talking out loud about why I choose a book, my likes and dislikes for each one, helped hone my personal criteria. Also, I understand my expectations as a reader better. Turns out: 1) It’s okay if I find parts of a book problematic, but acknowledging weaknesses doesn’t necessarily make a book less satisfying; 2) Memorable lines are important to me — if a particular line gives me pause, I’m more likely to love the book, warts and all; and 3) Bonus points if I learn something new.

Good Karma Checks All The Boxes

Catherine and Ralph move to a new neighbourhood as Ralph’s retirement begins. They have a cute dog. Ralph is not very kind to Catherine — about the dog, about her role in his life, or about much in general. He’s more interested in flirting with a real estate agent and playing golf than keeping the fires burning, as it were, with Catherine.

Fred, another resident in their gated community, tragically lost his wife Lissa to cancer. Fate, with perhaps a little help from Lissa post-mortem, brings Catherine and Fred together at a dog park, where a misadventure ensues.

Ida Blue, neighbour and self-declared pet psychic who becomes linked to Fred’s great dane and Catherine’s Boston terrier, launches a whole new career she didn’t know she needed.

Add in a BFF for Catherine who breaks into houses just to live someone else’s life for a few moments, and the snootiest bunch of tennis club women you can imagine, I was willing to follow these characters over any convoluted arc they led me.

The Swamp and Sex Scenes Lacked Lustre

The story was not without its weaknesses: The plot is thin, but lucky for me, I am a character-driven reader. In one scene, however, at least one character was left out and one introduced for no real reason I could discern. It involved a hullabaloo with an alligator, yorkie, and too many characters in a swamp. I’m sure it was supposed to be hilarious, but it left me scratching my head.

A particular sex scene left me cold as well. Fred seemed to be way too hot for Catherine way too soon. And she seemed way less threatened by this scenario than I thought she should be. As a result, I couldn’t stomach the intensity into which they flung themselves. It’s true I’m suspicious of overly descriptive sex scenes anyway. (See my review of The Hating Game, which excels at such scenes.) (I harp on this less-is-more theme a lot — Do other people read books for porn? I certainly don’t.)

What I loved most was the role Fred’s wife Lissa played from beyond the grave. And although I would have enjoyed more of Lissa, the resolution was well written.

What I Learned

As a reader, I learned nothing from this book but that’s okay. It was a joyful romp during a stressful time in the world: the perfect escape for me.

As a writer, I learned something that, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, I should have known all along: that sometimes an author doesn’t find her voice until she’s in her second set.

Notable Quotable

Favourite Quote: “I like to live other people’s lives.” (A writer’s mantra if there ever was one.)

Highly Recommend

All in all, this book is an entertaining, refreshing read, full of cute dogs and eccentric characters along with some more down-to-earth ones, and at least one not-on-earth one! Highly recommend.

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