If it hadn’t been chosen as a book club selection this month, I probably never would have picked up Looking for Me, despite seeing blogger after blogger give it rave reviews and include it on annual lists of favorites for 2013. I’ve mentioned this before, but I have an irrational prejudice against “Southern” books. Also books with photos on the cover that look like they could have been lifted out of a women’s magazine. Plus, I’ve been fooled too many times by glowing reviews for books like The Friday Night Knitting Club that tugged at my heartstrings but lacked enough character development to really engage me.
Looking for Me definitely falls into the category of women’s fiction – with the smart, sassy, female main character/narrator, Teddi, whom every reader would love to have as a best friend; Teddi’s own best friend, Olivia (a rare book dealer); a supporting cast of colleagues and family; and, of course, cozy descriptions of food (Yes, pie makes an appearance.*) antiques, and other home furnishings – but the author’s sense of humor, fondness for her quirky, socially awkward characters, and opting for realism over sentimentality more often than not, makes it an outstanding example of the women’s fiction genre. If it weren’t for the girlish cover, more men might read and enjoy it – if not for the antiquing and Teddi’s efforts to become the owner of her own shop – then for the descriptions of the farms, birds, wildlife, and woods of rural Kentucky where Teddi’s family lived.
The story told in the first person by Teddi revolves around her brother Josh and the mystery of what happened to him. It jumps backwards and forwards in time from Teddi’s childhood years in the 1960s with an unhappy mother, a loving but taciturn father, and a younger brother who was far more in tune with the natural world than with his peers, to Teddi’s current life in Charleston, South Carolina. At present, Teddi has lived in Charleston for many years. She drives home for visits, waiting for her mother to agree to come to Charleston for a visit, never feeling the closeness she wishes they could have as mother and daughter. The absence of Josh lies unspoken of between them, along with the years of past misunderstandings.
If you have already read and liked Looking for Me, you may also like Meg Mitchell Moore’s novels, The Arrivals and So Far Away; Joyce Maynard’s The Good Daughters; Adriana Trigiani’s Big Stone Gap books; and/or these authors, whose books I haven’t read yet:
I didn’t have the book finished in time to attend the book club meeting, but here’s a link to what the group thought.
Looking for Me
Viking, May 28, 2013
Disclosure: I borrowed a copy of this book from the public library.