‘Jules is a gifted college student- but at a personal cost. She has acquaintances instead of friends and family she's ashamed of- including a father battling addiction. When she discovers she can earn much needed money by donating her eggs, she believes she has finally found a way to save her father. Annie married her high school sweetheart and became a mother. After years of staying at home and struggling to support her family on just her husband's salary, she thinks she's found a way to recover a sense of purpose and bring in some extra cash. India has changed everything about herself: her name, her face, her past. When she falls for a wealthy older man, Marcus, she decides a baby will ensure her happy-ever-after. But her attempts at pregnancy fail, and she must turn to Annie and Jules to help make her dream come true Then each of their plans is thrown into disarray when Marcus' daughter, intent on protecting her father, becomes convinced that his new wife is not what she seems...’
When gold-digger India marries an extremely wealthy older man, she feels a child is just what they need to cement their marriage. But having a baby isn’t nearly as easy as she thought, especially as her new step-daughter believes there to be an ulterior motive to her plans. India ends up enlisting the help of Jules, a student desperate enough for money to donate her eggs, and Annie, a mother herself, who wants to help support her family by being paid to be a surrogate. However, even the best laid plans can fall apart and when tragedy suddenly strikes some very tough decisions need to be made.
When I read the blurb to this book it sounded like an absolutely brilliant idea for a story: these women’s relationship is based solely on their connection with a child whom they’ve all had a part in creating, and I was very interested to discover where Weiner would go with the concept.
India was extremely cleverly written – she reinvented herself completely so she could catch herself a rich husband, and her plans have finally come to fruition. Despite this rather mercenary behaviour, she is, somewhat unexpectantly, a really nice person: she loves her husband and is genuinely kind to Annie in particular. Her intelligence also appealed to me, and, although she certainly makes mistakes, she ultimately redeems herself.
Annie was a delightfully stable character, and completely adores her family. I didn’t really agree with what she decides to do to make the extra money her family needs, and could more than understand why her husband finds the situation so difficult. Despite this, she deals with everything brilliantly, ensuring that she makes things as easy as possible for everyone concerned. She’s rather dowdy compared to India, and the contrast between the two was nicely done.
One thing that I was a little surprised at was the lack of any sort of scene with Annie handing the baby over, particularly as all the plans which were so carefully put in place have gone somewhat awry by this point. I couldn’t work out whether the omission of such a scene was a deliberate ploy of the author’s or not.
All in all, ‘Then Came You’ lived up to my early expectations. I thought the book was well-written, and it certainly kept my interest throughout. I loved how different all its heroines were, and how such an unlikely bunch came together. Although I might not have approved of some of their actions, they were all ultimately likeable and I could empathise with them. Weiner really gets to the bottom of her characters, which is what made this novel a very satisfying read.
“When Sylvie Serfer met Richard Woodruff in law school, she had wild curls, wide hips and lots of opinions. Decades later, Sylvie has remade herself as the ideal politician's wife - her hair dyed and straightened, her hippie-chick wardrobe replaced by tailored suits. At fifty-seven, she ruefully acknowledges that her job is staying twenty pounds thinner than she was in her twenties and tending to her senator husband. Lizzie, the Woodruffs' youngest daughter, is a recovering addict, whose mantra HALT (Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired?) helps her keep her life under control. Still, at twenty-four, trouble always seems to find her. Diana, an emergency room physician, has everything Lizzie failed to achieve - a husband, a young son, the perfect home - and yet she's trapped in a loveless marriage. With temptation waiting in one of the ER's exam rooms, she finds herself craving more. When Richard's extra-marital affair makes headlines, the three women are drawn into the painful glare of the national spotlight. Once the press conference is over, each is forced to reconsider their lives, who they are and who they are meant to be”.
Sylvie Woodruff, wife of Senator Richard Woodruff, has spent years supporting her husband and his political career any way she can: her life completely revolves around his needs and schedule. So she’s devastated when she discovers that Richard has been having an affair, and runs away to her childhood holiday home where she can have some space from her husband and the reporters who’ve been hounding her ever since the story broke.
Also affected by Richard’s behaviour are his daughters, Diana and Lizzie. Diana is an emergency room doctor stuck married to a man she doesn’t love. Her parents have convinced her to allow her sister Lizzie, a former addict, to baby-sit her son Miles while she’s at work, something that Diana isn’t 100% comfortable with. As for Lizzie, she’s wanting to regain her family’s trust and rebuild her life, but how will she cope when she’s thrown a curve ball?
I couldn’t help but feel that not a lot really happens in this book: what little action there is takes place at the beginning of the story and even that seemed a little lacklustre. Part of the problem could be that we are now so used to politician’s indiscretions they’re no longer shocking - they’re almost par for the course, and so Sylvie finding out about her husband’s dalliance just wasn’t a dramatic enough event to hinge a novel upon.
I found it hard to really relate to or empathise with any of the three female protagonists. They all came across as extremely self-centred, and Diana and Lizzie both make incredibly stupid decisions for two grown, supposedly intelligent, women. None of the main females really seem to care about anything other than themselves and they weren’t particularly strong or inspirational. Selma, Sylvie’s mother, was much more my type of heroine: intelligent and forthright, she made a fantastic matriarch.
Perhaps it would have helped to have known more about the main characters’ pasts, particularly in relation to Lizzie’s addiction, which would have helped me to understand her actions in the book. Possibly Weiner could have made use of some flashbacks or had characters reminiscing about Lizzie’s past behaviour.
I did however think that Weiner did a wonderful job with the character of Diana’s son, Miles. It would have been very easy for her to have just written in a generic kid to look cute and make his mother feel guilty about the problems with her marriage. Instead, she writes a far more interesting and realistic little boy, complete with neuroses and annoying habits.
Weiner’s writing style was enjoyable, and I particularly liked some of her descriptive passages: the house that Sylvie stays in sounds wonderful, practically idyllic (apart perhaps for the dead mouse!) and the descriptions of the food Sylvie learns to cook are very good, and extremely tempting - although it was a little unrealistic that she seemed to effortlessly, and practically overnight, turn into a gourmet chef.
Overall, I felt that ‘Fly Away Home’ was well-written and contained an interesting assortment of characters, though they could have been developed better had the author delved deeper into their backgrounds. I thought the book was let down a little by its storyline, which just didn’t contain enough action for me. I did enjoy Weiner’s descriptive passages and the character of Miles was beautifully written – he was one of the best child characters that I’ve read in a very long time.