With the U.S. economy plummeting, words such as recession, layoff, downsizing and budgets cuts are commonplace and all too real. In Virginia DeBerry and Donna Grant’s latest novel, What Doesn't Kill You, the protagonist is feeling just how real some of these words are as she deals with financial distress that seems like a never-ending downward spiral. Some readers, including this reviewer, will certainly be able to relate. As the old adage goes, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Or does it? Read this witty and thoroughly entertaining new book and you’ll find out.
Thomasina “Tee” Hodges is a forty-something woman who seemingly has it all, or at least has it all together. She’s a divorced single mother of an adult daughter, and she has a great job, a large suburban house, and a flashy sports car to complete the package. She’s not rich but has done very well for herself. When her daughter Amber decides to get married, Tee is more than happy to foot the wedding bill. Of course, she has to make it an affair to remember with no expense spared. Although the wedding takes place without a hitch and is a picture perfect fairytale, the reality is that Tee lost her job a week before the nuptials.
Tee narrates her story in a sassy and often humorous voice, taking readers on her long, tough journey of unemployment. There’s the harsh reality of actually having to create a resume and look for a job, since the one she lost was the only one she’s had since high school. There’s the shame and pride that come into play as she keeps her unemployment a secret from her family and friends. In addition, there are the unrelenting bill collectors, extra high COBRA payments, and the “cash-advance dance” to be played with credit cards. Oh, and there’s what to do with Gerald, the married man she’s been seeing for years, and Ron, the best man at Amber’s wedding with whom she had a one-night stand.
Along the way, Tee makes some key discoveries about herself and others. She determines what is real and what is real important. While life throws curveballs that might cause a struggle, anger and frustration, ultimately the curveballs won’t kill you but actually strengthen your resolve.
What Doesn't Kill You is DeBerry and Grant’s first foray into writing in the first person, and they pull it off effortlessly. This literary duo excels at writing as one, it’s great to see the return of their collaborative yet seamless style. There are just a few instances where the pace slows down significantly and one could be forced to skim, but despite that, this novel is well worth the read.
It is a true testament to survival in terrible economic times - timely, relatable, and definitely entertaining. Whether you’re a DeBerry and Grant fan or a first-time reader of their work, you will not be disappointed with this offering. It is inspiring and highly recommended.