After Joan Sanderson gets her heart broken when her long-time boyfriend, now known as Roger the Rat, unexpectedly marries the office bimbo, she feels more stuck than ever. She is one of the few in her graduating class who still lives in the small town of Danville, Kentucky, at home with her mom and grandmother. And she’s stuck in the middle there, too. She finds herself refereeing between Carla and Grace as they work out some of the generational differences that arise between mothers and their grown daughters.
Grandma Grace is getting very forgetful, acting out her obsessive compulsive tendencies by alphabetizing everything from the coffee mugs to Carla’s underwear drawer. And Joan is afraid that her mother is having thoughts about moving Gram to a nursing home. There is an underlying tension between Joan and Carla since Joan has always blamed her mother for divorcing her father. She was close to her father and has never gotten over the loss or the resentment.
Joan is also stuck in the middle of a job that she does well but not too joyfully. She manages a furniture store with a bit of counseling on the side with her employee and Rosa’s estranged husband. Things do begin looking up, however, when her new neighbor comes in to select a few items for his house. Dr. Ken Fletcher sparks her interest, and the feeling seems to be mutual until younger sister Tori begins her relentless flirting routine. Joan feels her own chances will be washed away in the tide of beautiful Tori, so she steps aside.
Underlying the plot lines involving the family and Dr. Gorgeous is the deeper theme of searching for meaning and purpose in life. Virginia Smith has a knack for introducing Godly truths in very practical ways and demonstrates how difficult it is for some to accept the differences in others. Yet, once understanding is sought, differences become less threatening. She provides not only a lively tale but plenty of food for thought.
Smith has created a delightful story that is as real as everyday life. The characters are engaging, the situations are down-to-earth and the discovery of true spirituality is inspiring. Universal themes are treated with love and a light touch that is encouraging to anyone facing old resentments, changing family roles, sibling rivalry and feelings of being “stuck.” STUCK IN THE MIDDLE is the first in a new series, and I look forward to more stories involving the Sanderson sisters.
Reviewed by Maggie Harding on February 1, 2008