Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Review: If You Were Here

Just finished reading If You Were Here, Jen Lancaster's first fictional novel, and couldn't wait to discuss it.

As I said in my previous post, this book was everything I hoped it would be. And more. Lancaster's unique voice shines through her characters, keeping right on point with the clever wit and hilarious sarcasm. At several points throughout the novel, I literally laughed out loud at the comedy of phrasing and the situations these characters, Mac and Mia, get themselves in. One of my favorite lines in the entire book comes after a local gang member in the Chicago neighborhood tries to throw a Molotov Cocktail at their rental home. He fails and Mia remarks, “One second he's standing there looking all smug and menacing in his ski mask, and the next, he's covered in turpentine and flaming harder than Boys Town on Pride weekend.” HI-larious. Humorous remarks like this land throughout If You Were Here.

Clever one liners aside, the story itself is quite interesting. If You Were Here tells the story of Mac and Mia, a Chicago based couple who decide it's time to make the move to the suburbs. After looking at an endless supply of almost houses, they settle on a money pit of a house in need of total renovation. The story retells their adventures in DIY home repair, hiring contractors, renovation nightmares and all things in between. What I loved was the twists and turns this novel takes. There are many unpredictable points reached that I never saw coming. They added a captivating element that made it hard to put the book down. I also really enjoyed that just when you think things can't get any worse or go any further, they do. Lancaster does a great job of setting up scenes and then taking it to the brink, keeping the reader engaged and entertained.

Mac and Mia (who slightly resemble Jen and Fletch in some ways from the memoirs, in a good way) have an interesting and realistic relationship that you can't not root for all the way to the end. Lancaster delves into the other side of happily ever after and hits at real marital problems stemming from financial woes, house disrepair and disagreements. We, the readers, get to see this couple work through such looming problems, making Mac and Mia seem more like old friends than simply characters on a page.

My only (minor) gripe is that I wish Mia was a little more confrontational up front when having to deal with overbearing neighbors and pushy executives and the like. In the end though, she steps up and makes her voice heard in a fantastic way.

Lancaster has successfully made her mark on the fiction world and I can't wait to see where she takes us next.


  1. i really liked this post... i feel like your writing is always getting better and better :)

  2. I finished this one a little over a week ago- LOVED IT! In the beginning I was really worried that reading this book was going to make me want to take on a bunch of DIY home remodel projects, but very quickly made me do a complete 180! DIY remodeling? Pass!

  3. I totally agree about the DIY! I thought it was going to be like watching HGTV and i'd want to redo my whole apartment but was quickly dissuaded as well!