Andi had just about given up on love, marriage and family life before she met Ethan when she was in her mid-30s. At that time, Ethan seemed like a dream come true: a landscape architect whose interest in beautiful spaces and places matches Andi's own; a family man, divorced but dedicated to his two lovely daughters.
"[T]he book does capitalize on many of Green’s strengths: brisk plotting, believable situations, and realistic descriptions of family life."
After the two have been married for several years, however, Andi's dreams of marrying into the perfect family and perhaps adding to it with a child of their own seem to have evaporated. Instead of "two lovely daughters," Andi now has a good relationship with only one, younger sister Sophia. Older sister Emily, now in high school, has become sullen, rude, and sometimes downright cruel to Andi even as she clings to Ethan, who seems blind to his older daughter's faults. Andi's repeated requests to crack down on Emily's bad behavior (which includes drug use and drunk driving) are dismissed or ignored by Ethan. What's more, Andi hasn't gotten pregnant, and it's become increasingly clear that Ethan doesn't want to go through the baby stage again with a third child.
When Emily becomes pregnant, Andi realizes that this might be the chance to have her dreams of becoming a mother, of caring for a baby, come true. But Ethan is hesitant, and Emily just might decide she wants to abort --- or keep the baby herself. This family crisis might not only drive Emily and Andi farther apart, it also might destroy the strong relationship Ethan and Andi once shared.
ANOTHER PIECE OF MY HEART is simultaneously both Andi's and Emily's stories. At first, the novel seems to be focusing solely on Andi, as she struggles to negotiate her proper place as stepmom to an increasingly unlikable stepdaughter. Midway through the book, however, Green broadens her focus to include Emily, who tells her own story in the first person. This technique, although not entirely successful from a narrative standpoint, does allow Green to introduce the reader to Emily's complexities and even her assets, many of which are invisible to Andi.
Jane Green's 13th novel is by no means perfect. Its rapidly shifting points of view can be disorienting and confusing. Sophia's virtue and Emily's vices are overblown and overly simplistic. Andi's single-minded focus on having babies and her inability to meet Emily on her own terms make her a difficult character to like. But the book does capitalize on many of Green’s strengths: brisk plotting, believable situations, and realistic descriptions of family life. Although ANOTHER PIECE OF MY HEART might be an uncomfortable read for some mother-daughter book clubs, it could also be the perfect vehicle for getting mothers and daughters (step- or not) talking to one another about the things that push them apart and keep them together.
Reviewed by Norah Piehl on March 15, 2012
Another Piece of My Heart