Published by Touchstone on 2014-07-29
Genres: Contemporary Women, Family Life, Fiction, General
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In this warm and winning first novel, a recently divorced woman rises to the challenge and experiences the exhilaration of independence with the unlikely help of her brother with Asperger's, who she takes in to help pay the rent.
Seven months after her husband leaves her, Lana is still reeling. Being single means she is in charge of every part of her life, and for the first time in nineteen years, she can do things the way she always wanted to do them. But that also leaves her with all the responsibility. With two teenage children—Byron and Abby, who are each dealing with their own struggles—in a house she can barely afford on her solo salary, her new life is a balancing act made even more complicated when her brother Matt moves in.
Matt has Asperger’s syndrome, which makes social situations difficult for him and flexibility and change nearly impossible. He only eats certain foods in a certain order and fixates on minor details. When Lana took him in, he was self-medicating with drugs and alcohol to numb his active mind enough to sleep at night. Adding Matt’s regimented routine to her already disrupted household seems like the last thing Lana needs, but her brother’s unique attention to detail makes him an invaluable addition to the family: he sees things differently.
Complex, smart, and genuinely moving, The Art of Adapting is a feel-good story that celebrates the small moments and small changes that make one big life.
I received this book for free from Touchstone in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
I struggled with THE ART OF ADAPTING because in some ways, I really loved it and in others I found it predictable and a bit boring. In this story by Cassandra Dunn, a newly-separated mother of teenagers has to deal with putting herself back out there, adapting to life without her husband (but still with him in it some, as they are only separated), and watching out for a grown brother who has struggles with Asperger’s Syndrome. It seems like it’s almost too much for one book to handle, but that’s where the beauty of the story came in.
THE ART OF ADAPTING is told from four different viewpoints. Lana, the mother mentioned above, her brother Matt, her daughter Abby, and her son Byron. In reading the synopsis, I figured Abby and Byron to be the secondary characters but what I found instead was that they shone – quite a bit. In fact, I became very quickly attached to Abby and I continuously craved more of her story.
What I was disappointed in was the somewhat limited view we have of Matt. Very little is explained about his lifestyle or how he managed to fall as deeply as he did into a life with Spike (or who Spike even was to him? I first thought a lover but then later wasn’t so sure). Instead, Dunn latches on to some Asperger’s traits and uses them to tell the story of Matt. The result was that I felt I was reading the story of a diagnosis and not the story of a man. I really struggled with it, and it’s hard to put my finger on just what didn’t work for me but that’s the best that I can explain it.
In spite of its failings, THE ART OF ADAPTING is a read that caught my attention from the first set of narratives. Each character teased me with just enough to keep me turning the pages until I saw them again and before I knew it, I’d come to the end of the book. I will say that the story did drag a bit as well about 250 pages in – I was somewhat surprised to check my pages and saw that I still had over a hundred more to go. Dunn took the story further, involving some characters in it at the last minute and, while it worked, it also led to an ending that was a bit too clean-cut to be realistic.
Still, if you are looking for a good, end-of-the-summer, poolside book, you wouldn’t be disappointed in THE ART OF ADAPTING. Just don’t go into it expecting a lot from the Asperger’s angle and maybe you won’t be as disappointed there as I was.
Check out these reviews!
- “Told through the voices of each of the family, the story of how Lana gets her groove back is by turns humorous and touching, and infused with reality, which is a refreshing change for women’s fiction.“ – BrodartVibe