I broke a serious reading resolution last week. I followed up Elizabeth Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton, which was SadSadSad, with Lauren Fox’s Days of Awe, which ended up being SadSadSad. Remember how I was going to stay away from literary despair in 2016? Oh well. I’ve already lost that battle. I seem to be drawn to depressing stories in the same way that I am to containers of Nutella (I polished off a full tub yesterday. So sorry, arteries).
Days of Awe is a novel about the way that grief can crack the entire foundation of your life. Isabel is a middle-aged woman whose best friend dies suddenly. Isabel’s grief winds like a tendril around her marriage and her relationship with her daughter, and she can’t quite fit all the pieces of her life back together again. Moreover, she sabotages herself left and right, because she is SadSadSad.
The author has made her name as a writer of women’s fiction, and her snappy prose certainly makes her a good fit for that genre. In fact, the strength of this novel is that the hilarious writing can fool the reader into thinking that this book isn’t a tragedy. But be forewarned: this is NOT a beach book, unless you are looking for a way to draw some heavy, dripping clouds to your sunny days.
That said, there are some scenes at a middle school that are genuinely laugh-out-loud funny. Isabel is a teacher, and in addition to her grief, she has to navigate workplace politics, mean girls, and field trips. It made me wish for a companion novel that focuses exclusively on the people at the school.
This is a worthwhile book, with some great elements. I’m “glad” I read it, and I bet that I will continue to follow this author in the future. It’s a difficult novel to recommend, however, since I’m not sure who would be the right audience. Readers who like their Nutella with a side of tears, maybe?