Book Review: The Strange Year Of Vanessa M By Filipa Fonseca


When Vanessa got into her car that winter's afternoon, she had no idea she was setting off on a journey with no return. An inner journey that would call into question a whole life spent living up to other people's expectations.

With tragic and comic episodes that bring together a domineering mother, a hippie aunt, a boring marriage, an insufferable boss and a friend who never knows when to shut up, "The Strange year of Vanessa M." shares Vanessa's voyage of self-discovery with us. And it makes us marvel at the power we have to question things, because there's no end to the pursuit of happiness.

...So Flirting with Forty, minus a vacation-though there's an appearance of a surfing loving hunk who is ten years younger-and an irritating husband.

I am getting pissed at myself for commencing my reviews with: I love, love this book. But I can't help it, I really loved, loved this book (Apologies Niecey for the repetition. Still your unalloyed fan.) If not for the blog work, I would spend another week doing this all over again.

When I say, this book is so(oooo) like Jane Porter's hit, I really mean it. Frankly, I never completed Flirting With Forty. Because I didn't own a copy! I saw the book with a friend at school and this friend was so the kind of "friend" who would walk around campus clasping the book tight in the grip of her underarms to win over guys as the avid-reader type and the intelligent type. Anytime I asked her, she'd never let me have it saying she was so into not sharing written literature (You know how bitchy rich kids can get). But I was so into the blurb of the book, and I didn't want to give up. I doubt she'd be reading this blog (no kidding she's a dimbo), I stole the book. Yeah, gasp all you want. And I am not ashamed I did it. If I even really knew there was a movie, I would still have gone to such lengths. Unfortunately, I didn't finish reading it, because I came from recess one time and found out it was nowhere in my bag.

Reading this book made me somewhat fulfilled. And I really felt I had read from start to finish of you-know-what-book by now.

Another book about mid-life crisis. Another book about reconsidering all choices made in life. Another book about wanting to start over and exploring the world free from all the marital drama and the whatnots. And an exciting and fulfilling one at that.

I am not married. I don't have a kid. I don't have a friend who talks too much (I am probably that friend). I have the most adorable mum in the world unlike Vanessa's traditional one. And most importantly, I am sure if I do have all the above I wouldn't bolt like Vanessa did.

At the opening chapters, I was chaffed at our lead girl there (fortunately her roots are not sticking out like their doing on the cover), no matter how annoying your minors can get, there's no excuse for leaving them on a street and driving off. That's what being a mother is about, tolerating all the tantrums of your little ones no matter how much you would want to drive off (speaking from a guy's point of view). But it turned out, Vanessa had just been pranking the little girl. A prank which the police didn't get. And so did the judge who sat the case and sentenced her to forty sessions of therapy which would determine if she's fit to live as a normal person or one that should be locked up in a looney bin.

Through this therapy, Vanessa gets to acknowledge she isn't happy. Too much tedium, as she puts it. She doesn't know if she loves the husband who might be a prince charming in another fairy tale. She is quite sure she doesn't love her daughter. She isn't happy at her workplace with a boss who (collects dolls and) puts too much workload on her and one woman referred to as the 'Hellcat' happy to make everyone look bad in the sight of the boss (who collects dolls). She realizes all her life she's lived to please her mother. And Diana, she doesn't even know why she's friends with.

One incident of driving leads her to her hippie aunt who's in her sixties. Soon, she is leaving home, her husband, her daughter and to her mother's displeasure, moving in with this aunt.

Her stay is plagued with, concerns of all the wrong turns she'd taken during her lifetime, encounters with men who live with their daddies and mummies, a single lawyer in his thirties who loves to organize a little orgy at home and boyfriends of her aunt who like to troop around 'au-naturel'.

What I loved about this book is the little advice in the form of Vanessa's musings Fonseca drops out, and the ignored reasonings of every day life such as why there are so many nasty characters in this world, or why married couples would allow their waistlines to expand thinking their partners would accept them for who they are then get back in shape when there's a divorce, and why people cheat. Fonseca's view on all these simple everyday questions were fresh, unique and understanding. And you can't miss Vanessa's nights with a cult of divorcées who's opinions on marriage are enlightening.

Stock characters I was enamored with were mostly Frank, the hippy aunt's sixty-something boyfriend who loves going naked during their early hour meditations. Of course Diana whose speeches contributed half the novel size, and the single orgy-loving lawyer who brought most of the romance Vanessa had been lacking being away from her husband.

There's no need to give my usual drumroll to this

5/5 stars piece.

The Strange Year Of Vanessa M. is available on Amazon in kindle and paperback

A perfect read for the holidays. Or when you begin doubting all the choices you've made. I am not sure, but I think that moment of mid-life crisis (mostly with women) is inevitable and you would love this book snuggled between a duvet and a couch, your contacts well adjusted, a constant supply of caffeine in the form of coffee in a mug to take you through. Even if you are convinced you are so happy where you are, with who you are, still pick this book just because you want something entertaining. And trust me, mid-life crisis has never been portrayed any better.

Success through all your crises.

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

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