Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Four Friends - Robyn Carr (Q&A + Giveaway)

Four Friends - Robyn Carr
Four Friends by Robyn Carr
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Publication Date: March 25, 2014
Source/Format: Netgalley || e-galley
[I received this book for review from the publisher. This in no way affects the thoughts expressed in my review.]

Gerri can't decide what's more devastating: learning her rock-solid marriage has big cracks, or the anger she feels as she tries to repair the damage. Always the anchor for friends and her three angst-ridden teenagers, it's time to look carefully at herself. The journey for Gerri and her family is more than revealing—it's transforming.

Andy doesn't have a great track record with men, and she's come to believe that for her a lasting love is out of reach. When she finds herself attracted to her down-to-earth, ordinary contractor—a man without any of the qualities that usually appeal to her—she questions everything she thought she wanted in life.

Sonja's lifelong pursuit of balance is shattered when her husband declares he's through with her New Age nonsense and walks out. There's no herbal tonic or cleansing ritual that can restore her serenity—or her sanity. 

Miraculously, it's BJ, the reserved newcomer to Mill Valley, who steps into their circle and changes everything. The woman with dark secrets opens up to her neighbors, and together they get each other back on track, stronger as individuals and unfaltering as friends. (from Goodreads)


I was immediately drawn to Four Friends, as the title promised a story involving, well, four friends. Robyn Carr’s novel delivered on introducing us to four different middle-aged women – Gerri, Andy, Sonja and BJ. It might not have been quite what I was expecting when I cracked it open, but I’m happy to report that I still enjoyed it.

Carr has the ability to create a whole cast of characters for her stories, evidenced clearly by the books in the Thunder Point series and now again in Four Friends. Apart from the main group, there are husbands, children, extended family and many more. While not all the characters are as carefully developed as the women are, each one appeared to play a real role. 

Still, Carr’s biggest strength with novel shines in the stories she dreamed up for our four women protagonists. She made them all just different enough from one another that they’re easily distinguished from one another. But she also gave them enough in common to have something that draws them together, and gives some foundation to their friendship. Reading about Gerri, Andy, Sonja and BJ was like slipping amongst a group of real girl friends, especially when their friendship involved them deeply in each other’s personal lives through tragedy and triumph.

Each woman had a different story to tell, which made Four Friends feel a little bit like watching a TV drama (in the best way). With problems marital, mental and history-related, this story could have taken a turn for the sadder. Fortunately, even though the stuff they go through is no joke (they were actually very serious issues), the focus was really on how each woman reacted and fought to overcome these things to come out on top. This lent a hopeful air to the novel that, along with the romances and friendships, made me feel good by the time we reached the end.

When it comes right down to it, what this novel emphasizes is the importance of true friendship. It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you are; it’s always important to have real, solid relationships with others. They’re the ones who will be there for you in the darkest of moments, who will reach out to lend a helping hand when you need it, who will celebrate victories with you. As evidenced by how Gerri, Andy, Sonja & BJ go about their lives with each other’s involvement and support, friendships do matter.

While Four Friends is not my favorite Carr novel, it was a solid read. It entertained me, but more importantly, it reminded me about the importance of tending to the relationships in my life. For that alone, I’d say it’s worth the read.

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Thanks to Little Bird Publicity, I have a few excerpts from a Q&A Robyn did for the bloggers who are a part of the blog tour for Four Friends to share today!

Q: This is a novel about relationships. Romantic relationships. Friendships. Relationships with family. Is it hard to write the ins and outs of important and sometimes painful relationships? How do you do it?

A: Oh, this is what I love. Frankly I have a harder time writing romance than women’s fiction like Four Friends. For whatever reason, I’m acutely aware of the complexities of relationships. Life can be so messy and grievous sometimes, but it doesn’t have to spell doom. I read a book many years ago about the study of happiness or the psychology of the optimal experience. The question that drove the study was something like this: What is it that makes a woman who has suffered a divorce unable to get off the couch for ten years yet a woman of the same age who has survived Auschwitz goes on to live a fulfilling and satisfying life? I know these people—they’re all over my life and their stories are told constantly. Some people collapse and some rise to the occasion. I love creating new characters who face complicated human problems and through diligence and struggle find a way to make their lives well worth living. 

But do I get a stiff neck as I’m marching them through the minefields of their difficult situations? Absolutely. Do I get tears in my eyes as they grieve and struggle? Yes! I also get tears when they approach the resolution that makes their lives a positive force, a joy. Getting from sometimes monumental problems to realistic and intelligent solutions is the greatest fun in my life.

Q: Of the four women in this novel, which is the most like you? And which of them would you most like to be real friends with?

A: I’m not like any of them! There are characteristics in each of them I admire, but that’s the beauty of being a storyteller. If I’m in an argument with my husband, we’ll stumble and fumble, say the dumbest things, the cruelest things, botch everything or even have a brilliant moment or two. But in a story, I have days to write the dialogue between characters and in the end they say things I wish I had been smart enough to say, intuitive enough to conclude. The characters are smarter and quicker than I am! And they live such great lives—turning their foibles into victories. 

I loved Gerri’s righteous anger. I loved Andy’s openness and willingness to take a closer look at who she has been in relationships. I loved Sonja’s tireless quest to keep her life meaningful and her generous spirit. I loved BJ’s courage. I loved the honesty of the psychiatrist and the wisdom of Muriel, Gerri’s mother-in-law. 

But if I wrote a character who resembled me, she would be so much more flawed! So dull!

Q: These women seem like people you would know from work or your neighborhood. And it’s because they all have problems like the rest of us. And yet, you help them deal with these problems so the book still has a message of hope. Do you think that’s something most women can have in their lives—hope that they can deal with hard things?

A: Yes I do, but hope comes in all shapes and sizes, doesn’t it? Hope for one woman is getting to the bottom of the flaw in the marriage that predisposes the cheating, hope for another is understanding, with great disappointment, the marriage cannot work. Ultimately hope lies in knowing yourself, knowing your limits and potential, knowing what really drives you toward a fulfilling and satisfying life, knowing and believing in your personal values. In this game, everyone gets a life! Not just the boys or the kids or the boss! Everyone deserves quality of life; everyone deserves the chance to live a full, rewarding life. And that’s a very individual thing.

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Thanks to Little Bird Publicity & Harlequin, I have 1 copy of Four Friends to give away on the blog today! This giveaway is open to US RESIDENTS ONLY.

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