Prolific veteran novelist Melody Carlson blurs the lines between chick lit and mom lit with style and humor in THESE BOOTS WEREN'T MADE FOR WALKING.
Cassidy “Cassie” Cantrell is inspirational chick lit’s typical “before” protagonist --- an overweight, 31-year-old Christian single who has let herself go but still loves the occasional shopping binge. Her bad-news boyfriend of three years, Eric, pressures her for sex while alternately spouting Christian platitudes. When a new girl she and Eric befriend at church gets romantically involved with Eric, he dumps Cassie and self-righteously tells her of the new girl, “God brought us together, Cassie….I think it was a God-thing.” Even Cassie isn’t buying this one.
Eric’s timing couldn’t be worse. Cassie has just been downsized at her marketing firm in Seattle, and as her grandmother has always cautioned, “bad things always come in groups of three.” Sure enough, the slinky, fashionable gal and presumed friend in her apartment complex leaves the naïve and unemployed Cassie in debt to the tune of almost $5,000. She is left with only one option: move back home with her mom. She cleans out her apartment, and after some unexpected and interesting dinners with another tenant she’s always dismissed as a loser, she makes the move.
This is the point when the novel really begins cooking. Home is Black Bear, close to the Black Bear Butte ski resort, which is building a reputation as a travel destination. Of course, the resort needs marketing, and readers won’t be left guessing over who will fill the bill. “Mom” is Audra Cantrell, a fiftysomething mother of three grown daughters who was recently dumped by her husband for a younger woman. But when Cassie arrives home, she’s in for a shock. Audra has lost weight and has gotten a little Botox and liposuction, a makeover, a snazzy car, a new wardrobe and a job selling real estate. In other words, Cassie’s mom is hot.
Not only is her mother sexier and skinnier than Cassie, she’s dating men with whom Cassie went to high school! Carlson has fun with this relationship, showing Cassie’s battle with jealousy over her mother’s newfound confidence in her identity and Cassie’s determination to change her own life for the better.
Of course, Cassie soon is getting a makeover, losing weight and finding a fabulous job and plenty of men who think curvy is cute. It wouldn’t be chick-lit if you couldn’t discover a princess in those sweatpants, somewhere. Cassie gets her own unintentional revenge of sorts, dating men who are closer to her mother’s age than her own. Enter a little jealousy on mom’s part. What is unexpected is what men Cassie and her mother finally end up with in the novel’s closing pages. Readers will be kept guessing.
If you liked THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA for the fashion focus, then you’ll enjoy some of the endless name-dropping of designer dresses, purses, shoes and, of course, boots sprinkled throughout this story. And, as in Lauren Weisberger’s novel (but without the explicit sex and profanity), one of the protagonist’s love interests is an aspiring chef. Christian fiction readers also will find similarities to Sharon Ewell Foster’s AIN'T NO RIVER, in which a young single woman is suspended from her job and flies back home to live with her grandmother, who has morphed into a “silver fox.” More similarities: Like Jennifer Weiner’s IN HER SHOES, Carlson explores the relationships between sisters who are stereotyped as to their best qualities and abilities. But with all that said, Carlson mixes many of these plot elements together and makes them her own.
Inspirational Christian fiction readers will find that Carlson paints much more believable characters than the common fare. Cassie isn’t afraid to meet other church singles at the local bar for Happy Hour, and drinking a glass of wine or having a beer is treated as an ordinary event. The Christian audience may struggle with the idea that Botox, losing weight, joining a gym and dressing well are keys to love and happiness. However, Carlson’s dead-on portrayal of Christian singles groups, while just a small part of the novel, will strike a chord with many church-going single readers.
THESE BOOTS WEREN'T MADE FOR WALKING is a fun, enjoyable, escapist read that shows yet another facet of Carlson’s skills as an inspirational novelist. If you’re a fan of chick lit or mom lit, then this one is for you.
Reviewed by Cindy Crosby on June 19, 2007