The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go
A novel by Amy E. Reichert
In the mood for a summer read that will boost your faith in people, yet without being simplistic and sappy? A book that may even compel you to cry real tears—I confess I did—from sympathy and joy?
A Wisconsin woman has written such a book for you. Her name is Amy E. Reichert, and the book is called The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go.
No, it’s not one of those step-by-step self-help guides guaranteed to make you happy by teaching you to trust your Inner Self. Instead, it’s a novel, the tale of four women—three generations of one family—who must try out new, unaccustomed paths through life as they cope with dizzymaking love, heartbreaking loss, and hard-wrought social and psychic defense mechanisms.
The story centers on Gina, who owns and operates a one-woman food truck, serving gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches for Milwakee’s lunchtimers. Gina’s a pushover for people in real need, yet hard-nosed enough to run a thriving business. She’s also half-numb with mourning for her deceased husband and stumped by the challenge of relating to May, her equally grief-stricken daughter.
Gina, May, and Gina’s younger sister, Vicky, are showered with unwelcome parental supervision by Lorraine, Gina and Vicky’s overbearing mother. When a sudden crisis in Lorraine’s health begins to expose deeply-buried family secrets, all four need to readjust their lives to accommodate startling new realities.
I loved this book, principally because the people in it are so real. They are all people I’ve known, and I’ll wager you know them, too. The family situations they find themselves in both preposterous and absolutely credible. These are just the kinds of things that happen to people in real life.
The characters’ strengths can also be weaknesses, and their weaknesses strengths. Gina is a compulsive organizer, who can only stumble through her hectic days by making lists. Patronizing remarks to the contrary notwithstanding, it is Gina’s listmaking that gradually, persistently, begins to impose order on the chaos of her life—and even on the structure of the novel itself.
The old woman, Lorraine, is almost as irritating to the reader as she is to her daughters and granddaughter. But as her story gradually unwinds, we find ourselves admiring the very adaptations that make her so annoying.
I would like to go on and on about the strengths of this novel, with its sure-footed narrative style. But if I write any more, you’ll begin to feel I’ve told you the whole story.
And it’s too good a story not to experience for yourself.
Ensconce yourself, at your earliest opportunity, with a copy of The Optimist’s Guide to Letting Go. I’ll bet you will like it as much as I did.
Larry F. Sommers, Your New Favorite Author