Margaret, Polly, Faye, Shirley, and Alice continue their adventures as the self-named Hot Flash Club in Thayer’s latest offering. Each of them has an interest in a spa called The Haven, which has turned into more work than they imagine. When one of their board members offers the quintet an opportunity to use her house on Nantucket Island, they leap at the opportunity.
Even when you go on vacation, life has a tendency to come along for the ride. It is not different for these aging gals who are all in various stages of menopause. Uncannily they all appear to be at the same stage, their symptoms eerily alike and centered on hot flashes. Anything can send them into a glow that rivals the outcome of an atomic bomb. Margaret is overburdened by family obligations; Faye has issues with her current beau; Shirley has a track record of choosing the same wrong man repeatedly; Alice battles a dicey heart and weight problems; and Polly - well, Polly discovers she is a crafting woman at heart.
The beautiful old home on the island has its own secrets; stuffed with beautiful heirlooms, the Hot Flash Club sense trouble underfoot when precious objects go missing. A regal neighbor with an inflated sense of her own worth complicates matters only a bit. These five women collectively think of themselves as worthy of any challenge, no matter how far they fall short individually.
I tried very hard to like this book. I applaud Thayer’s effort to “normalize” menopause; however, her approach gives a natural condition the unnatural position of becoming a character in and of itself. Hormone therapy must be out of the question for this group; quite a few of their symptoms can and should be treated by a good gynecologist. Despite their best efforts to the contrary, they live and define themselves by this stage of their lives.
Sadly, chick lit has become something of an excuse for poor writing. If a novel falls into this genre and is further marketed as a “beach book,” almost anything passes muster. Thayer is a mediocre writer whose descriptive efforts read much like a laundry list, particularly in later chapters that seem rushed and hurried. The vague mystery of the missing objects is nowhere near as fully developed as the interminable references to the complaints inherent with aging, never forgetting hot flashes. Thayer explores no real depth of emotion, not even when characters discuss their dead husbands or the loss of a beloved pet. Margaret’s mother, in her 80s and living in the basement apartment, becomes a bit of a caricature with her sad jokes and dependency on her daughter as her fetch-and-carry person. The men who touch these women’s lives are not well-drawn, either. At best, they are seen through a simplistic lens of love, irritation, or infatuation.
Equally irritating is the cover of this paperback. I understand that this is not generally within the author’s control, and I cannot lay the blame for this at her door. Still, an image of three air-brushed, forty-at-most women lying tummy down on the beach without a sag, wrinkle or age spot between them strikes me as the opposite of what she is trying to accomplish. We are all going to age if we are lucky enough to wake up breathing morning after morning, and certainly there is no reason to give up the joy or pleasures of our existence. Marketing is not prepared to sell a book cover depicting five ordinary women of any age.
Though the series seems to be immensely popular, I cannot give this novel a good rating. While I agree that old age is not for sissies, I maintain that good writing is timeless.