The Outlook for Earthlings by Joan Frank is a highly recommended poetic novel about the lifelong friendship between two women.
"The Outlook for Earthlings traces an unusual,
friendship across a lifetime, between women of stunningly opposite
natures." Melanie Taper is timid, but she also has an innate
insight into the human condition. It seems that she has hidden her inner
strength from those around her. Scarlet is the exact opposite of
Melanie. She is impetuous, determined, and passionate, so she is also
often shocked by Melanie's passivity. The two cling to their friendship
even though they don't understand each other and they each have their
own separate needs. Their lack of accord results in each of them
silently taking exception to the nature of the other oblivious to what
they each need. Ultimately, it considers beginnings and endings,
contemplates who ultimate measures the worth of their life, and the
restraint of friendship.
The novel spans decades, starting in the 1960s to the 2000s with an
epilogue in 2013. We meet Melanie and Scarlet as girls and touch base
with them through adulthood. Frank perfectly and vividly captures the
decades in various chapters. We know the thoughts of both women and their inner dialogues
as we follow their lives and the decisions they make. We also see the
compromises and concessions that they make, especially Melanie, as they
work through their life and loves. The characters are both
well-developed and accurately portrayed as individuals with very
The writing in The Outlook for Earthlings is phenomenal, poetic, descriptive, and poignant. This novel is almost perfectly written to be read and shared in a women's book club because of the differences between these two women and their long-term, yet misunderstood, friendship with each other. During this time of political chaos and covid, where people are so polarized and not respecting the views and opinions of other people, a novel like this speaks to the heart of the matter. We can't know what someone thinks without talking to them, asking what they need, and then truly listening to them and accept their statements. We are all entitled to our own opinions and views, but we are not entitled to pin our ideas on others. Friends, real friends, will allow each other to be and believe. A book club could find fodder for discussions during more than one meeting here and perhaps even enlighten each other why others believe what they do. No spoilers, but there is a whole lot more going on that simply a difference of opinion in this touching novel.
Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Joan Frank and Regal House Publishing