Author Judith Marshall’s first novel, excessively long title and all, won the California Writers Club Jack London Prize. For all you readers, male and female, who are pre-boomers, Marshall’s novel will resonate at some level. Finally, a book inhabited by real folk, not the slick, hip boomers Botoxing their way into retirement.
Marshall crafts her story to fit within a one-month period, from March through April of the year 2000. The setting is generally Northern California and specifically, the Bay Area and Lake Tahoe. Liz, a divorced mother of two adult children, experiences the downside of a company merger at the same time her longtime lover has accepted a transfer to the East Coast. How does she cope? Like most of us, with a little help from her friends. We meet the six women through flashbacks, both funny and poignant, not only about how the girls first meet and are drawn together, but also important biographical information that clearly distinguishes each character.
These women did not have the vocabulary or resources their own children would have. They slogged their way through divorce, alcoholism, infidelity, spousal abuse and other aberrant behavior by trial and error, often leaving them with painful memories that wound never fade. But there is room for laughter. Marshall’s description of a near surreal Tupperware-like party is pretty darned funny and all matters sexual (both adolescent and adult) are treated with great honesty.
The storyline widens with the sudden death of one of the friends and the reader is seamlessly drawn into each character’s response to that event. Karen, the friend who dies, had lived at Lake Tahoe and it is there, where the friends meet to grieve and to relive their shared years of Tahoe vacations. From those memories, long-held secrets are revealed. The women may have chronologically reached maturity, but, as they discover, the unexpected death of a friend can be a sobering catalyst for change. .
The novel is told in Liz’s voice and it is definitely her story, but the group of women almost becomes a character in itself. You will recognize a least a few of them and possibly yourself. Learning to accept one another, willingly or not, is a key to the longevity of their friendship. And in answer to the question asked in the Beatles’ song, “When I’m Sixty-four,” yes, I think at least some of these women will still find themselves lovable.