Book Review: Strong Enough By Ellen Harger

Blurb: Starting over is hard. And sometimes, you have to burn a few bridges to do it. Whitney Brown is average--average intelligence, average height, average weight--but she wants to be someone new. To kick-start her rebirth, she wears formal mourning, a black veil and vintage dress, to a wedding in her hometown, Woods Cross, a community that treasures family values. Is it an attack on marriage or has she just gone bonkers? Emboldened but lacking a plan, she forces her foot in the door of a radio station in Sundown. A small metropolis of nearly 150,000, Sundown is a notch of urban flair along the Midwest's Bible Belt. Getting in proves to be the easy part and the anonymity of being a DJ suits her well. But off air (and in person) Whitney must stand up to Sadi, an angry feminist and the bane of her college years while an old friendship with her former roommate, Leah, devolves around a guy. It's 2002 and the Midwest radio scene is changing. Just as Whitney hits her groove, the radio station undergoes its own identity crisis. But what rocks Whitney to her core is the moment the condom breaks. Her abstinence only background leaves her embarrassed and facing a difficult choice.

OK. I don't get it. They sniff each other's armpits? And he says, "Yup." afterwards??

More like... YUCK!! But then again it's not always you have characters who don't have body odor (from all the chaos you put them through). A plus to Whitney.

I loved, loved this book. A shaky start, I must say, but it turned out well through not-far-from-the-start, the middle and the end.

One thing I love about this book: there's no room for predictions. Everything in the blurb ends before the first chapter. And you are left guessing, what now?

This book touches on issues such as friendship, relationship and prejudice- from the beginning. The basic composition of every Chicklit.

The humor is subtle. And the characters are unique, well-developed and entertaining to read about.

Ellen Harger beautifully sets a vivid description of Sundown, that it's hard not to believe there's something as 'mid-west charm'. Wherever you are sitting, you get a great view of Sundown. The scene is as lively as it can get in the west. And Ellen creates a world undertaking rehabilitation with the introduction of a fun facilities for a lively nightlife. New clubs are set up, restaurants increase in number, malls and bookstores. Not the Sundown of years prior to 2002 (as stated in the novel). A county that's undergoing development as much as the characters in the novel.

So first off, we've got Whitney. She's mostly confused, nervous and always in some fierce internal battle. From the beginning, I didn't get this girl. The black ensemble to that wedding amped me up about this character. But it's shocking when you find out this girl isn't as gutsy as the blurb misled you to believing, but... antsy. She's the kind of girl who is so good at her job, but she questions everything that you are screaming: Just do it already!

Leah, I loved, is a friend/roommate of Whitney. This girl is so flirtatious and loose (not loose-loose, classy loose) her relationships don't make it past the moving in stage yet she still goes in for those scoundrels knowing for sure she'd dump them eventually and be single-not for twenty-four hours-again.

And there's Sadi, my favorite. Her fierce independence is striking and appealing. The character, most of you would enjoy reading about and mostly be the subject of your discussions. She isn't the die-hard, will-fight-tooth-to-nail-for-equal-suffrage-rights feminist Whitney made us believe. And hatred towards her in the start is unavoidable, but through the middle you begin to relish her point-of-view and pray it would forever last to the end... until Whitney makes that dream impossible.

Sadi is single. Whitney is single. Leah is screwing Tom, co-owner of Impressions, a restaurant and a regular setting in the novel. Sadi, through a mistake, is introduced to Marc, other owner and chef of Impressions. Whitney meets Gabe, fireman and the guy always around (it's annoying) to get Leah through her breakups. Leah isn't the friend we all thought she would be and right from the start a silent resentment is embedded in Whitney as they argue over ownership of a pair of socks that is Whitney's (At least, that's what Ellen made us believe. Socks were too good to be Whitney's).

Sadi and Marc have great sex. Gabe and Whitney have drunken sex. Leah screws Todd's brains out and judging from her character, they probably employ whips and cat suits into their routine.

Though the main stress is on relationships, Whitney's career is also a permanent feature. The fact that her job security is unstable, leaves her on tenterhooks. (A feeling most DJs can relate to.)

Marc is charming, even with his heavy cynicism. Todd is far from charming and relies on Leah's dictates. Gabe, I hate so much, is adorable but puts Leah first to Whitney.

Stock characters you will find humorous are Christian, Sadi's assistant and Meredith A.K.A Mer, A.K.A The Amazon because she's completely buffed and has an equally daunting but friendly personality. There's also one Erin who plays the role of the workplace friend until... (spoiler here) she's let off as part of the radio station's budget cuts and Jerry, Whitney's man-of-few-words boss and Rick, Whitney's moronic co-anchor of the morning show who draws out 'laugh here' placards on Whitney's script.

Despite this book being slow-paced it's nice reading about the lives of these different women and their dilemma.

Most of the info if I relay would be spoilers. But it's a really good book and I highly recommend it.

Every section (start, middle, end), puts emphasis on a new theme. But overall, I think this book preaches against too clingy women, false friendship and the effects of fierce independence to some extent. How much should we let go, compromise for love? Is there anything as being without a man to figure out the real you? Surely, no one can live without 'the one'. But with the help of true friendship we can still find our way.

My rating is: 4/5 stars.

The book is available at Amazon.

Great book, Ellen Harger.

My work not done here. Off to post my review on Goodreads.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Kobby, what an insightful review! I loved reading your interpretation, responses, and opinions.

    I learned some things, chuckled over several, and nodded with most.

    Tidbit for you and your readers (because you commented so specifically on this), Gabe's relationship with Leah was based on reality. I had a Leah friend and she had a Gabe. I couldn't understand him at all. He returned three times to heal her and then was tossed out when she found the next guy. It was unbelievable!

    AND another tidbit in exchange for a mention, the sock scene? Totally real. It happened to me with an upstairs neighbor. She came by to see if I wanted to do something and literally accused me of stealing her socks! I was so flabbergastested!!!!

    Cheers and thanks again for all your time and appreciation,