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Sarah Pekkanen – Skipping A Beat

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Love and money – two sides of the same coin?

Publisher: Washington Square Press (Simon & Schuster)
Pages: 321
Type: Fiction
Age: Adult
ISBN: 978-1-4516-0982-0
First Published: 2011
Date Reviewed: 7th August 2012
Rating: 4/5

Michael and Julia have been strangers living in a marriage that’s not been much of a marriage for a long time. Julia is somewhat used to it now, but even more used to the riches that Michael’s self-made company has created for them; so when Michael dies and is resuscitated, wanting to give everything up and live a simple life, Julia has some thinking to do and decisions to make.

Skipping A Beat explores an area of life that is little experienced but widely discussed – after death experiences – and couples it with a more grounded issue. What makes the riches to poverty aspect in the book so unique is that those involved were not born into luxury and have not, especially in Julia’s case, found the years long enough to get fully used to it. Enjoy it, yes, at least somewhat, but it’s rather ironic that Julia has never felt completely “there”, that her situation strikes her as temporary. This was an intriguing idea from Pekkanen.

Julia is the character most detailed, and Pekkanen pays a lot of attention to explaining why Julia feels the way she does; although it isn’t until very late in the book that the reader hears anything less than positive about her. This makes sense in a way, as Julia is the narrator, but not knowing the information leaves you more in the dark than Michael. Considering that Michael knows nothing of what the reader knows – otherwise – this isn’t good. This may have been Pekkanen’s plan, whilst she presents a pretty person in Julia, we are never given the sense that she is wonderful, yet we don’t get to see just how effected Julia has been by Michael’s lack of care. And really, we should have seen this a lot earlier.

But other than this, there is a lot of good, solid, discussion about Julia’s issues. It’s interesting, and rather telling, that although she does have some major problems with Michael, the one that Julia chooses to focus on is money. Whilst she may have always felt uncomfortable and a little lost in the wealthy world Michael’s success threw her into, the sudden jolt out of it gives Julia a lot more anger towards Michael than, for example, the time he never made for her. It’s very telling and very honest, because we can say that money isn’t everything all we want, but how many people would seriously be completely happy to give up wealth after having had a modest life previously? Julia’s plight of whether or not to stay with Michael through this change affects her friend, Isabel. Born with a silver spoon in her month, Isabel is used to wealth, but suffered her own problems when she gave up her daughter for adoption. The two friends boost each other’s confidence and help to bring clarity when the way forward is blurry.

Julia must make her decision based on love – is her love for Michael enough that she would be prepared to give up their wealth? It is this that she must realise the truth of, and Pekkanen shows how invisible objects can stand in the way of love. The only issue is that a lot of the thinking done by Julia isn’t particularly hard hitting.

The ending is rather quick, sudden, and unfortunately an overused plot point. It fits the story, and when one looks back hints can be found throughout, but it still remains incredibly convenient. The book suits a nicely tied ending, threads neatly knotted in bows, but this ending just makes the whole issue almost irrelevant. Irrelevant isn’t a good word to use, considering what happens, but it is apt. It’s almost as if all that thinking was for nothing. It wasn’t – the crux of the story is that Julia had to realise which path to take, and that she did – and perhaps the issue was to provide a life lesson, which is important; but in a book it doesn’t work. In real life it does, heck it does, I can tell you that one, but in literature it’s just too much.

Skipping A Beat makes you think, makes you question, and it will shock you. Hopefully it will make you delve deep too. The issues raised are important and handled rather well. But as a whole package it could have done with a little more thought. Go into it ready for a ride, but be aware of the drawbacks.

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September 10, 2012, 11:14 pm

I really enjoyed this book! I can’t wait to read more from Sarah.


September 11, 2012, 10:07 am

Cari: Yes, although it had it’s moments the quality is very good and I too can’t wait.



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