Yes, I admit that I am 80s obsessed. I listen to 80s music, my favorite podcast is the excellent Stuck in the 80s, and I can still recite every line of “Sixteen Candles”. But when Molly Ringwald’s – yes, that Molly Ringwald- story collection came in the mail a few weeks ago, I was surprised. I had no idea that she was a writer, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Was it published on its own merits, or because its author was Claire from “The Breakfast Club”?
I gave Ringwald’s book When it Happens to You a try on vacation this week, and I was blown away. It’s excellent. It’s a collection of interrelated stories – “a novel in stories”, says the cover – that deal with marriage, betrayal, motherhood, infertility, and modern life in L.A. Damn if Ringwald isn’t an extremely talented writer.
The main characters are Greta and Philip, spouses facing the breakdown of their marriage upon the discovery of Philip’s infidelity. The other characters radiate out from these two – the parent of one of Greta and Philip’s daughter’s classmates; Greta’s mother; Philip’s brother; Greta’s next door neighbor. Events are sometimes told from more than one perspective from chapter to chapter, helping this book avoid the fragmentation and disorientation that often plagues story collections. Ringwald understands relationships, particularly marriages, and her characters are flawed, totally realistic, and utterly compelling.
I read a review that complained that the stories weren’t really stories because the characters felt rather than did. That didn’t bother me at all. I found that these stories were packed with enough drama to support the self-analysis of the characters, and I loved being privy to their innermost thoughts and conflicts. Ringwald’s eye for detail and ear for believable dialogue made When It Happens To You a very pleasurable reading experience for me. I highly recommend this one.
Thanks to HarperCollins for the review copy.