Sunday, April 20, 2008

Glory Girls by Linda Bleser

GLORY GIRLS chronicles the lives of the Glory sisters- once child members of a family lounge act in the Catskill mountain resorts. Andrea, Bethany, and Chelsea have grown up with memories both wistful and resentful of their performing childhood, their beautiful mother who died too soon, and the father who deserted them to bury his grief in a bottle.

The eldest, Andrea, has allowed the bitterness to make her hard and cold. Her choice to become an attorney was less about a love for the law than a desire to be in control through power and money. Chelsea, the baby, has stayed in show business and craves the attention adoring crowds give her. But the main point of view in the book is from Bethany, the dutiful middle child who stays in the background and always takes the safest way.

The story begins when the sisters learn of their father, Alexander’s, impending marriage to a Las Vegas showgirl half his age. Though he’s been sober ten years, each of his daughters has unresolved issues about his emotional abandonment after their mother’s death. He wants them to accept his fiancée, Tara, but they aren’t too receptive. Bethany and Chelsea are still loyal to their mother; Andrea is worried that a gold-digger will take their inheritance. The girls were raised, primarily, by his mother, their grandmother Rosemarie. Granny Ro is nearing the end of her life. She owns the Catskill hotel where the girls grew up performing, and Alexander wants to reopen the place to showcase Tara. Granny Ro has changed her will to give the sisters ownership of the place, and Andrea sees a way to burn the memories of her childhood and punish her father by selling it to developers who will more than likely tear it down. Bethany, though, wants to restore their homestead and perhaps, their family.

Bethany has stayed in a passionless, empty marriage. Her three children factored big in that decision, but she honestly doesn’t believe she deserves more. She doesn’t like to make waves. Now 40, she is looking back over her life and realizing that she is still young enough to dream. Chelsea introduces her to Dr. Ken Lanigan, a self-help counselor who fires both her imagination and her libido. She comes to the conclusion that she is indeed worthy of more than she’s got, and slowly she goes for it. The restoration of her resort is paralleled with the restoration of her family and her own soul, and she finds the strength to fight for it.

Bethany’s journey resounded with me, as just about any woman who is nearing the empty-nest stage can attest. Although my own marriage is happy, I knew exactly what Bethany was going through. Her children don’t need her the way they used to, and now she’s facing the end of what has been the main focus of her life. New ideas and new people have awakened things in her long buried, and it is both exciting and frightening. Linda Bleser has richly drawn characters in an iconic setting, and I enjoyed seeing Bethany find her worth.

There are only two things I could take issue with- Tara, the showgirl fiancée, is a little too nice to be believed. She’s tough, but there’s no edge to her. Anyone in a cut throat profession that calls for nightly nudity for that many years is going to have some not-so-nice characteristics.

The second- the book simply isn’t long enough. Some ends are tied up rather neatly, with Andrea’s and Chelsea’s romances, the relationship with their father, and we don’t really see any reactions from Bethany’s teenage sons to her profound life changes. Each sister could ideally have her own book (that’s of course my wish, but not my call) and I would liked to have seen deeper explorations before the resolution. All in all, I suppose a reader wanting more isn’t a bad thing.

There’s no sex, but certain graphic words are thrown in casual, girl’s night out conversation. Some themes in GLORY GIRLS reminded me of an another good book, THE OCEAN BETWEEN US by Susan Wiggs. Thanks, Linda!


Kimber An said...

Excellent review, Robyn!

I sped-read GLORY GIRLS. I'm okay with the loose ends because the main plot is resolved and I love sequels!

That said, it wasn't an easy book to read because I'm a lot less forgiving than I used to be. I would have been the sister who disowned their drunken deadbeat dad and never looked back. Good thing the characters matured more than I have!

I think anyone who liked ASK AGAIN LATER by Jill Davis will like GLORY GIRLS.

Robyn said...

With you there. Even though I identified with Bethany, I wanted in Andrea's head. Especially with her hunky contractor!