Saturday, June 1, 2024

Same As It Ever Was

Same As It Ever Was by Claire Lombardo
6/18/24; 512 pages
Knopf Doubleday

Same As It Ever Was by Claire Lombardo is a highly recommended literary, character-driven domestic drama.

Julia Ames, 57, is married to Mark, 60, and the two have a son Ben, 24, who is about to get married and become a father, and a daughter, Alma, with an attitude who is graduating from high school. While shopping for Mark's 60th birthday celebration, she runs into Helen Russo, an older woman she hoped to never encounter again. Twenty years ago Helen met Julia and Ben (3 at that point) at the botanic garden. Helen took Julia, who was floundering, crying frequently, and socially inept at the time under her care almost like a surrogate mother. This encounter lead to Julia reexamining her past actions and why the friendship ended abruptly.

While the writing is excellent, detailed, and can even be humorous, the plot is slow moving. The narrative alternates between current events and events from years ago, including meeting Helen and even earlier to Julia's childhood. The alternating time lines document Julia's emotional turbulence and her self-sabotaging behavior while trying to be a wife and mother. It does accomplish the task of examining Julia's current life, her relationship with her children, and the friendship she developed with Helen, along with reasons for the end of the friendship, years ago.

All of the characters are portrayed as fully realized, realistic individuals. Julia is a deeply flawed, complicated character. As she struggles to show affection and seems bent on self destruction, Julia is not necessarily always a sympathetic character. At other times information is revealed that makes her an overwhelmingly a sympathetic character. Thanks to Knopf Doubleday for providing me with an advance reader's copy via NetGalley. My review is voluntary and expresses my honest opinion.

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