Saturday, March 19, 2011

Expiration Date by Sherril Jaffe

When I first looked over the cover of this novel, I wasn’t sure I would enjoy it. But I have so much faith in Permanent Press, I went ahead anyway. At first, I thought if I ever wanted to know the date of my death, this book presented a great argument against the fulfillment of that wish. However, as I read on, a thread of humor took hold, and I ended up thoroughly enjoying this book. This reminds me of another recent read that I might have shied away from: The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. Both proved to become stunningly thoughtful and insightful examinations of life and its meaning.

Flora, 35 years old and pregnant, has a dream in which she is told the date of her death. This and her relationship with her mother, Muriel, occupy the rest of the novel. The characters are all instantly recognizable. I know a woman who, at the birth of her daughter, said, “I’ll never live to see her first communion.” Last year her great-granddaughter had her first communion. Despite falling down an entire flight of stairs when she was in her early 90s – and she didn’t break a single bone! – she is still going strong as her 96th birthday approaches. I love this kind of realism in a novel that allows me to connect with characters in a most interesting way!

The husbands of these two women also play roles, albeit minor ones, but when Muriel’s husband dies, she embarks on a number of interesting adventures with men she meets playing bridge. The lives of these two women are entangled in a most quirky way. Rather than maudlin marches to their coffins, Flora and Muriel learn lessons and really enjoy life.

My only regret is that this novel isn’t longer. Expiration Date is due for publication next month. Don’t miss it! 5 stars

--Chiron, 3/20/11

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