Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Latecomers Fan Club by Diane Vanaskie Mulligan

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A New Acclaimed Work of Contemporary Women's Fiction from the author of Watch Me Disappear

What is it about guys with guitars in their hands that makes them so irresistible, even when they are obviously self-centered jerks? If Abby and Maggie could answer that question, maybe they could finally get over Nathaniel.

Abby was first sucked in by Nathaniel's rock 'n roll swagger four years ago when a drunken fling turned into a series of drunken hook-ups that became something like a relationship. Now, as New Year's Eve promises a fresh start, she wants to believe he's finally going to grow up and take their relationship seriously.

What does Nathaniel hope the New Year will bring? An escape from the disappointing realities of his life. He's thirty-four years old and he's barely making ends meet as an adjunct philosophy professor, which was always only a backup plan anyway. Nathaniel's real goal was always to make his living as a musician, but his band, The Latecomers, broke up a couple of years ago, and he hasn't picked up his guitar in months. When he decides to spend the holiday with some high school friends instead of hanging out at the bar where Abby works, he gets the happy surprise of reuniting with his long-lost friend Maggie. Newly divorced, Maggie has just moved back to her mother's house to regroup.

Nathaniel and Maggie were supposed to be the ones who left Worcester forever to conquer the world. He was going to be a rock star. She was going to take the world of art by storm. He's never gotten farther than Boston, and her best efforts only left her broke and heartbroken. As they ring in the New Year together, Nathaniel decides it's time to take control of his life and to start making his dreams come true. He thinks the first step will be easy. All he needs to do is break up with Abby and finally admit his feelings for Maggie. But the New Year has more surprises in store, and nothing is ever as simple as it seems.

I like storylines with old friends meeting up. I’m particularly interested in how their old lives hold up when they intersect with their new lives. What are they thinking? Are they happy and living up to their dreams or are they disappointed with how things turned out? This is why I was drawn to The Latecomers Fan Club.

The story centers around three characters, Abby, Nathaniel and Maggie. Abby and Nathaniel are currently an item; Nathaniel and Maggie were best friends in high school. Abby laments the state of her relationship with Nathaniel. He doesn’t behave as the ideal boyfriend – not that she has some sort of checklist going – but she does recognize that their relationship is lacking something. Abby is all in but Nathaniel, not so much. She’s holding out hope that he’ll shake off whatever it is that’s keeping him from fully committing to her.

Nathaniel is discontent with his life. He had such high hopes of escaping town and becoming something special but his reality is far off course. His band, The Latecomers is also a source of disappointment. He’s disinterested in his relationship and completely dishonest with Abby. The only thing lifting his spirits is Maggie’s reappearance into his life.

Maggie has returned to town after the collapse of her marriage. She’s embarrassed and stressed about living with her parents again. Running into Nathaniel is a highlight but is he what she needs right now as she straightens up her head?

I know I’m being hard on the characters when I say that all of them are sad. I did develop an attachment to Abby while Nathaniel is the least likable of the group. There are just so many lies and distorted views that grated on me. The tough part is that what they’re all going through is real and it’s hard for them to snap out of their pity party. At least Abby managed to get some life in her by the end (thanks to her best friend). Truth is for all of their imperfections, I did care about what they were going through. And while I may not agree with some of their decisions, they seem to be headed in the right direction towards the end. 

The Latecomers Fan Club is about adults who don’t realize their dreams and struggle to accept that in order to adapt. Growing up can suck sometimes, especially when you’ve lost your drive. Moving on requires courage and perhaps a special person to help you see things differently. And if second chances at happiness come along, snap them up quick!

~ Bel

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