DRIVING SIDEWAYS by Jess Riley. Reading that book was a fun experience and I became a fan immediately. When I realized she had released another book, I knew I wanted to read it as well. If you are familiar with Jess Riley's blog, you are also familiar with her smart wit and great sense of humor, which spills over into her books. ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE is a story that is easy to relate to. We all have family's and I don't care who you are, within those families, there more than likely, is some sort of tension. This is the story of how one woman dealt with her dysfunctional family during one of the hardest times of the year: The Holidays.
About the Book: (No Spoilers Included)
Its been six months since Jaime Collins' mother passed away from cancer. She and her husband, Erik, lived with her mother and cared for her up until the very end. Now Jaime has the task of sorting and packing up the house, putting it on the market and selling it. All while still mourning her loving mother. Jaime has two older siblings, Clint, who is married with a daughter still living in their hometown in Wisconsin, and Gwen, the over-achiever lawyer living in Atlanta. They are not exactly close with each other and the stress of selling their mother's home only makes things more awkward. Clint, the outspoken, bullish one of the family, doesn't hide his feeling that Jaime isn't doing everything she can to get the house sold and Gwen is too busy perfecting her life that she gives the impression she just doesn't want to be bothered by any of this. Gwen's complete lack of a sense of humor only adds to the strain in her relationship with Jaime, whose sense of humor is fully intact, albeit, maybe a little warped at times.
Things come to a head at the Thanksgiving dinner table when a terrible argument erupts and in a fit of anger, Jaime flings a hearty spoonful of mashed potatoes at Clint, but instead nails her niece, Hannah as she comes out of the kitchen. Visibly upset by all of the fighting, Hannah runs crying from the room leaving Jaime feeling like a complete jerk and everyone glaring at her.
It's nearing Christmas and Jaime hasn't heard from her family and begins contemplating a lonely Christmas. Half kidding and a little buzzed from a bottle of wine, her friend, Frankie, suggests she put an ad on Craigslist for a new family to spend Christmas with. Not thinking it would amount to anything, Jaime posts the ad. What follows is what happens when you invite complete strangers into your life to take the place of people you feel you have no connection to within your own family. Sounds crazy, right? But honestly, I, myself, have felt this way with my own family and I'm sure I'm not the only one. Jaime, on the other hand, had the guts to go through with it.
Having really enjoyed Jess Riley's previous book, I had an inkling of what to expect from ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE. I'm thrilled to say that my expectations were met and surpassed. I had an easy time relating to Jaime Collins, the protagonist on many levels. I'm the youngest sibling in our family, I tend to not stick up for myself, and I was in a childless thirteen year marriage when most of my friends were having babies and growing their families. So, right away, I connected with her. And I liked her. Alot.
I loved the idea of this story: Getting so fed up with your real family that you want a new one. Who hasn't secretly wished for that at some point in your life?! But the idea of putting an ad on Craigslist and actually following through with it, gave a glimpse of what it might really be like. Honestly, I don't know many people who would do it, so I was able to experience it without inviting strangers into MY life! I thought this storyline was so original and funny. Jess Riley moves the reader through the story at a perfect pace, allowing us to get to know each of these 'new' people, and the baggage they brought with them, while keeping the momentum intact.
A big reason why the story worked so well for me was the characters. Her 'real' family characters were so authentic, I could actually relate them to people in my own life! I loved meeting the people who answered Jaime's ad. They were an odd mix of very real people and each one quickly became endearing to me. Even Paul. (No really, I did like Paul.) I thought Ms. Riley did an amazing job of incorporating this diverse group of unusual people into the complex family drama that is ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE. One of my favorite characters, though, was her loyal husband, Erik, He was the king of the Good Sport. Another character I really liked was Chris, the transgender man who desperately wanted to be accepted as a woman. I loved his sense of humor and the quick bond that he and Jaime developed.
I was especially impressed with the way in which many serious subjects were brought up and dealt with in this book. Don't get me wrong, it's a humorous look at the family dynamic, but there were also serious things happening: Domestic violence, bullying, attempted suicide and theft. I thought it culminated into such a well-rounded story. This could be anyone's family. The realness of it is what made it a great read for me.
There is so much more I could say about this book, but I will leave that to you to discover on your own. This was a truly enjoyable read for me and I think alot of people can relate to it. The moral of this story: All families have a certain level of dysfunction. But the bottom line is, no matter how insane they make you, they're still your family and you wouldn't trade them for anything.
ALL THE LONELY PEOPLE
Author: Jess Riley
Publisher: Create Space Independent Publishing Platform
Published: December 5, 2012
Printed Length: 276 pages