Overly Enjoyable Overdue Life
Kelly Harm’s “The Overdue Life of Amy Byler” scratched my romcom itch. Having just published my first romcom, I’m drawn to cheerfully covered books offering a fresh take on the boy-meets-girl, boy-and-girl-break-up-then-get-back-together trope. This book fits the bill. And for added pleasure, fails to drag its feet in the middle.
Author Harm’s voice is hilarious, and her equally amusing characters are so vivid they leap off the page and join you for coffee. Yet when I scanned the one-thousand-plus reviews on goodreads.com, I was surprised the average star rating is three and half. Why? Mostly because it was predictable, according to the top three comments.
Perhaps this is what sets me apart from the average reader. I was surprised at the end. Or maybe I just disagreed with it. This is a Team Edward vs. Jacob situation, and not everyone is on the same team. What’s predictable about that?
After Amy Byler’s husband disappeared for three years due to some sort of mid-life crisis, then returned, and proceeded to become the best father ever, apologizing profusely to Amy and authentically bonding with their two adolescent children, Byler is offered a chance to boost her career and receive some much-needed attention during a New York City librarian conference. Her fashionista friend, Talia, and her ex-nun friend, Lena, provide guidance, support and hilarity as Amy navigates her way through the “who am I, post-mother?” conundrum many women face.
As I begin the process of editing my third book, which happens to tackle the issue of identity, I could relate to Amy’s mixed feelings about striking out on her own versus the gravitational pull near-grown and grown children exert on a mother’s axis. There is never an ideal time for this striking-out adventure.
So I was drawn into the fantasy (we all know it’s a fantasy, right?) of Amy’s unique opportunity: a week that becomes more than a week away from kids for a complete makeover, intellectual pursuits, lavish dates with hunky men — all while the kids are at home being driven to social and athletic events by a father who deserves a wake-up call on the “mother’s life.”
But doesn’t the fantasy also include an in-tact family at the end? I’ll say no more, in case you have not read this book. But let me just note that Harm does a bang-up job of keeping us (me, anyway) guessing on Amy’s ultimate decision.
Things I loved about The Overdue Life of Amy Byler: so many references to my all-time favourite books (Twilight, The Book Thief, Catcher In the Rye, Hunger Games, to name just a few); brilliant opening (the jaw-dropping-laughter starts immediately and never wanes); the children who may be just a little too perfect but believable enough to support the fantasy; and Amy’s fixation with fashion-magazine-style capsule wardrobes
“Is there anything more appealing in my world of homework and swim practice than wearing some variation on the same thing every day?” (Even though you realize each item averages “roughly $475 apiece.”) Her reference to capsule-wardrobes-as-porn resonates every time I get a Pinterest update on fifty different capsule wardrobes for travel, aging gracefully, stylish trends, and so on.
Satisfactory endings are over-rated when a book makes me laugh, nod, disagree, think, and learn. All I need now is for you to read it and report back. Let’s have a virtual coffee chat!
P.S. When Amy solved a particular problem with a peanut buster parfait, I wanted to hug her and say “make that two, please.”