“Original, engaging, and soulful.” –EMILY GIFFIN, New York Times Bestselling author of Heart of the Matter
When Sarah Pekkanen debuted with The Opposite of Me last March, she did so by telling a story of twins — undoubtedly the most intense of sibling relationships. For her second novel, Skipping a Beat in bookstores next Tuesday, February 22, 2011, the author chose to examine an even more complicated relationship — marriage.
Of course the storyline is not about just any marriage. Sarah’s idea for the book began with her desire to write about a married couple forced to reexamine their relationship after the husband’s near-death experience. Change is a constant in life, yet in this urgent crisis mode the couple must decide to accept almost immediate changes if their marriage is to survive. That means before moving forward they must look back at the big and small decisions that turned a marriage of love into somewhat of a business partnership. As already mentioned, it’s complicated. However, for a bit of clarification, here’s the synopsis for Skipping a Beat:
What would you do if your husband wanted to rewrite the rules of your relationship?
Julia Dunhill, a thirty-something party planner, seems to have it all: Married to her high school sweetheart and living in a gorgeous home in Washington D.C., she imagines her future unfolding very much as it has for the past few years, since she and her husband Michael successfully launched their companies. There will be dinner parties to attend, operas to dress up for, and weddings and benefits to organize for her growing list of clients. There will be shopping sprees with her best friend, Isabelle, and inevitably those last five pounds to shed. In her darker moments, she worries that her marriage has dissolved from a true partnership into a façade, but she convinces herself it’s due to the intensity of their careers and fast-paced lifestyle.
So as she arranges the molten chocolate cupcakes for the annual Opera benefit, how can she know that her carefully-constructed world is about to fall apart? That her husband will stand up from the head of the table in his company’s boardroom, open his mouth to speak, and crash to the carpeted floor… all in the amount of time it will take her to walk across a ballroom floor just a few miles away. Four minutes and eight seconds after his cardiac arrest, a portable defibrillator jump-starts Michael’s heart. But in those lost minutes he becomes a different man, with an altered perspective on the rarified life they’ve been living and a determination to regain the true intimacy they once shared. Now it is up to Julia to decide — is it worth upending her comfortable world to try to find her way back to the husband she once adored, or should she walk away from this new Michael, who truthfully became a stranger to her long before his change of heart?
The early Praise (see left sidebar) for this novel is wonderful and Emily Giffin’s “Original, engaging, and soulful,” description is spot-on.
Also there is an immediacy, an intimacy to Skipping a Beat that offers a universal appeal to everyone no matter what their relationship status. In fact experience this for yourself by reading an Excerpt of Chapter 1.
That sneak preview alone indicates that Sarah Pekkanen has taken the traditional storyline of a protagonist struggling to grab the brass ring of great job, great love, great home and literally flipped the premise over to a read about someone who already has it all and wonders about now what? Not only is this refreshing but as the author says, “I do like the sense of coming full circle, and of looking at the issue of what we want versus what we need from different perspectives.”
That sentence could well account for the truth that this is much more than Julia’s story, it is also Michael’s. Attracted to and firmly intertwined by their dysfunctional family backgrounds, the young couple dream big and leave home after high school to achieve success. Although only in their mid-30’s at the beginning of the book, their young love appears to have been replaced by the demands of excess and success. Sarah confirms this shift by explaining:
“I definitely wanted to convey that Julia and Michael’s love had been bulldozed by their ambition. Their reasons for craving success and security were understandable, but they took it to an extreme – and their relationship couldn’t survive in the face of their skewed priorities.”
Unless, of course, something enormously overwhelming would shake up their world, forcing them both to reconsider those priorities. Obviously this is the main theme of the book, though not the only one. Understanding one’s own background and how it shapes our decisions and behavior; the powerful influence of friendship, and the healing effects of forgiving someone — all three are relevant and necessary in the telling of Skipping a Beat.
Even more thought-provoking though is that as dramatic and intense as the novel might feel, these themes apply to us all as does the author’s message: “…that love is the most important thing in this world. At a time when there are so many competing demands for our attention, and so many external stressors in life, it’s easy to lose sight of that.”
Sarah Pekkanen had great expectations to live up to after her popular debut. And so she put her heart into effortless, flowing writing and created something very personal. Not that this is Sarah’s story, but all the emotions — sprinkled with wit and humor — resonate with her and she hopes with readers. TRUTH: Skipping a Beat is a Valentine from and about the heart….a book that you’ll love!
[The Divining Wand sends out heartfelt congratulations to Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters) and Caroline Leavtitt (Pictures of You) who made the New York Times Bestseller List for the second consecutive week in a row as of February 13, 2011. Brava, ladies!!!]
Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Sarah Pekkanen’s Skipping a Beat in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.