The Wide Smiles of Girls
Jennifer Manske Fenske
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Buy *The Wide Smiles of Girls* by Jennifer Manske Fenske online

The Wide Smiles of Girls
Jennifer Manske Fenske
Thomas Dunne Books
320 pages
May 2009
rated 3 of 5 possible stars

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Two sisters are the focus of this novel, their mutual admiration and balanced relationship shattered when one suffers a life-changing accident. Perhaps the trouble has been brewing for a while for March and Mae Wallace Anders, petty grievances and small jealousies building over the years as life forces them in opposite directions.

The happy, outgoing March is popular in spite of her unrepentant girth, an appetite for life attracting boyfriends and friends. The smaller and more demure older sister, Mae Wallace, is less gregarious, early assuming the role of caretaker of her younger sister, even though their parents provide a happy, wealthy home environment.

But after March’s accident, there is a subtle shift between the sisters, made more pronounced when Mae Wallace moves to a small South Carolina island to help care for March, who is living in a therapeutic community. Obviously, a formerly active young woman must adjust emotionally to a changed future - and not necessarily in a good-natured manner.

In fact, Mae Wallace’s gratuitous assumption of her sister’s emotional burden is questionable, her actions barely supportable by rationalization. The tragedy is real enough, as is March’s complex reaction. But there is something of the manufactured drama in the telling of this story, a necessary plot device to move the protagonist from one place to another.

Mae Wallace’s instinct for caretaking is simply by virtue of birth, but her ready acceptance of guilt for her sister’s life is at odds with reason. It doesn’t help that there is little passion in the writing, the whole novel like an afternoon matinee. All issues are resolved by the end, happily ever after, the author failing to reach deeply enough to engage this reader.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2009

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