Real Life & Liars: A Novel by Kristina Riggle (William Morrow Paperbacks; $13.99; 327 pages)
It seems to me that growing older means a growing collection of paths not taken. More and more “what-ifs” left behind.
With the onset of Mirabelle (Mira) Zielinski’s thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, and the anticipation of reuniting with her family, Mira has a great deal to be proud of: a loving husband, three healthy children and three loving grandchildren. But the reality of life and disappointments have settled in as Mira contemplates the past sixty years.
Katya, Mira’s oldest daughter, appears to have the perfect life. A wealthy husband, a spotless home, a thriving business and three children who have everything they have ever wanted. Yet Mira speculates that her daughter’s desire to always want to fit in and have the best of everything may have resulted in a mundane marriage to a husband addicted to his job and three spoiled, disrespectful children.
Ivan, Mira’s talented son, writes songs and works in a school inspiring children. However, he has never been recognized as an artist and his abysmal taste in women has left him lonely and desolate.
Irina, the baby, is beautiful and spontaneous. Yet when she comes for the weekend announcing that she is pregnant and introduces her husband, who is twice her age, Mira suspects she has hit her all-time low.
“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
Mira clings to her hippie past as she rebels against conforming and endures her loving, yet distracted, husband who is engaged in writing a major novel. Her ideals of life and self-worth are challenged with the recent tragedy she is refusing to deal with.
As the family reunites for a long celebratory weekend, each will have to face their own fears and realities as secrets are revealed and truths uncovered. They will be challenged to redefine their understanding of one another and their own destinies. Mira may experience the greatest surprise as she is forced to contemplate how blessed she truly is and how happiness and peace are found in even the most surprising of circumstances.
Kristina Riggle presents her story with sincere family dynamics that anyone with siblings or children can relate to. Her characters are well-developed and so clearly defined that you will become attached to their story as if you’re part of the family. Riggle writes with the ease and grace of a veteran writer. It is hard to believe that this was her debut novel. I look forward to reading more from Kristina Riggle!
A review copy was provided by the publisher. “Funny, sad and utterly believable.” Elizabeth Letts, author of Family Planning.