For April, I decided to review I’m Fine and Neither are You by Camille Pagán.
Penny is a working mother with two young children. She’s married to Sanjay, a medical school drop-out who is still struggling to find himself by dabbling as a freelancer/part-time musician/stay at home dad. She works all the time. Her house is a mess. Her life is a mess and she’s pretty tired of it. The one positive beacon of hope in her life is her friend Jenny. Jenny is fiercely loyal, the perfect wife and mother and the author of a successful blog dedicated to living a grateful life that oozes perfection.
Penny’s world is completely shaken when Jenny dies from an overdose of prescription painkillers. Jenny is devastated by the loss of her friend and by the realizations that follow. Her perfect friend was addicted to painkillers and her perfect marriage was a sham. Jenny’s husband Miles wants to keep the details of his wife’s death private to protect their daughter Cecily and preserve Jenny’s reputation. Penny who shared everything with Jenny struggles to understand why Jenny hid her problems. Were they really best friends? Could honesty have saved Jenny?
Penny feels like she’s drowning in her own life. Can honesty save her relationship with Sanjay? Will convincing Miles to be honest about Jenny’s death with Cecily, Jenny’s friends and her readers help save other women who are struggling? Is she really the best person to lecture Miles about honesty and parenting?
Sanjay and Penny agree to a radical experiment - Total honesty. They will each make a list of what they need/want from their spouse and the spouse agrees to make the changes. Will total honesty save their relationship or will they discover their relationship is too far gone to be saved?
Sanjay embraces Penny’s list and starts to make improvements in his life. He begins to help out more around the house and with the kids. He gets serious about a major writing project and he begins to look for a full time job. Penny finds herself struggling to make headway on Sanjay’s very simple list.
Penny learns it’s easier to ask people to be honest than to look at your own life honestly.
Pagán takes an unflinching and unapologetic look at friendships, marriage, parenting, career and the desire to have it all. You’ll have to read the book to find out if honesty really is the best policy for Penny, but I’d like to leave you with the last line of the book. This is what Penny writes about her friend Jenny, “Wherever she was, I only hoped she knew I had received her parting gift – the ability to look beyond what was missing and be thankful for all that remained.”
Camille Pagán is the author of four other novels: Life and Other Near-Death Experiences, Woman Last Seen in her Thirties, Forever is the Worst Long Time and The Art of Forgiving. All are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
Photos courtesy of Camille Pagán’s publicist Ashley Vanicek
Photo of Camille taken by Myra Klarman 2017