The title of Deborah Wolf’s second book, When I'm Not Myself, is eminently appropriate and captures the theme of this notable novel. In it, the author brings us into the world of female friendships and explores the dynamics of such relationships when life is cruel - when one person has lost a piece of her identity and is floundering to become whole once more. How do close friends support each other in calamitous times?
Can friends with diverse values and opinions retain the friendships under the strain of opposing ethical views? This novel asks the hard questions and points the reader toward the solutions.
When unfaithful husband Jack Clancy leaves his wife, Cara, and his four children, the family is left to pick up the pieces of their lives. Though Cara has been aware of his infidelities, she’s chosen to hide her head in the sand. Long after Jack is gone, Cara feels like a part of her has gone with him, and she stumbles through her days hoping that one day Jack will return to her. The children struggle as well, especially Cara’s oldest daughter, Katie, who soothes her anger through alcoholic binges. It is only with the help of Cara’s stalwart friends, Mel, Paige, and Leah, that the family begins to heal.
Along the way, Cara finds herself being needed by her friends in return, and her spirit begins to heal as she nurtures them through their own individual turmoil: Mel’s search for the mother who once abandoned her, Paige’s miraculous childbirth, and a secret she must never reveal to Leah.
The emotional pace of the book is exactly right. Wolf realistically captures the frailties of the human heart. Although a few of the conversations between Mel and Cara didn’t ring true for me, it may be that there is a personality clash between myself and one of these women characters - therefore, I wouldn’t choose to have her as my friend. This means that Wolf has made these women real to me and conjured a strong reaction from me. What more could an author strive for?
Thank you, Deborah Wolf, for a wonderful novel.