Tuesday, July 28, 2020

If You Can Get It by Brendan Hodge

Jen Nilsson has an MBA, a nice condo, and a fast-track Silicon Valley job. Then her sister, Katie blows through the front door, dumping cardboard boxes and drama onto Jen’s just-swept floor.

Maybe Jen can turn aimless Katie into a model adult. But when her own life hurtles off the tracks, Jen turns to Katie for support and begins to reassess the place of family, and love, in her life.
I couldn't put this book down, which is really surprising when you consider it is the sort of story that I usually avoid (2 sisters making their way in the modern world today).

These sisters are polar opposites who are 10 years apart, so there is a generation gap also. We follow Jen through career crises which shake her confidence in herself. Her experience in China made me laugh. I can easily believe the scenario is true to life. I really liked all the business experiences — they were well explained and I was on board. Meanwhile, Katie plays X-box all day until told to get a job. Which she breezily does at a Starbucks. I liked watching Katie find her levels of competence, none of which had to do with a job in the business world.

The parents are no help. They recently found deep faith and are creeping the girls out with their holier-than-thou-ness and convenient lack of memory about early parenting failures. (I especially enjoyed that reminder for us faithful in the completely secular world. As Blaise Pascal said, "One must have deeper motives and judge everything accordingly, but go on talking like an ordinary person.")

The publisher compares Jen and Katie to the sisters in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. (I'd say the book is more like Emma, actually, considering Jen's journey from having the perfect life to realizing others might have more on the ball than she thought.)

Thinking of that helped me see why I liked this book. Jane Austen talked about normal, ordinary life with regular people who were out of money, had lost their boyfriends, had silly parents, and who thought they were in control of their lives. This book is the same sort of story. It is not Jane Austen to be sure. But it doesn't try to be. In some senses it reminds me of the gentle novels by Elizabeth Caddell or Enchanted April or Miss Buncle's Book. Although it is not those novels either. They are hard to categorize and so is the appeal of this one.

Author Brendan Hodge is weaving threads of providence, faith, and how to best live a fulfilling life. Those things are often found in domesticity, the work-a-day world, and family. This story does that very well.

Definitely recommended.

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