I received this book for free from the TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.A Handbook For Beautiful People by Jennifer Spruit
Published by Inanna Publications on November 24, 2017
Genres: Adoption, Adult, Contemporary, Contemporary, Drugs, Alcohol, Substance Abuse, Family, Literary Fiction
Source: TLC Book Tours
Buy on Amazon
Independent Publisher Book Award for Popular Fiction (2018 IPPY awards, Bronze)!
When twenty-two-year-old Marla finds herself unexpectedly pregnant, she wishes for a family, but faces precariousness: an uncertain future with her talented, exacting boyfriend, Liam; constant danger from her roommate, Dani, a sometime prostitute and entrenched drug addict; and the unannounced but overwhelming needs of her younger brother, Gavin, whom she has brought home for the first time from deaf school. Forcing her hand is Marla's fetal alcohol syndrome, which sets her apart but also carries her through. When Marla loses her job and breaks her arm in a car accident, Liam asks her to marry him. It's what she’s been waiting for: a chance to leave Dani, but Dani doesn’t take no for an answer. Marla stays strong when her mother shows up drunk, creates her own terms when Dani publicly shames her, and then falls apart when Gavin attempts suicide. It rains, and then pours, and when the Bow River finally overflows, flooding Marla’s entire neighbourhood, she is ready to admit that she wants more for her child than she can possibly give right now. Marla's courage to ask for help and keep her mind open transforms everyone around her, cementing her relationships and proving to those who had doubted her that having a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder does not make a person any less noble, wise or caring.
"Wonderful, heartfelt, heartbreaking—I can't recommend this novel highly enough."
—Annabel Lyon, author of The Sweet Girl
"Jennifer Spruit has such a distinct, poignant voice, and her briiliant debut novel A Handbook For Beautiful People highlights this perfectly. Through sharp characters and their complications, a driven narrative develops, enveloping us before we have a chance to judge. Jump into this novel. It will sweep you up."
—Joseph Boyden, author of The Orenda
I don’t think that I’ve read anything as raw, gritty, or gut-wrenchingly helpless and emotional as A Handbook for Beautiful People. Featuring Marla, a twenty-two year-old woman who has partial fetal alcohol syndrome thanks to an alcoholic/drug abusing mother who practically abandoned her and her deaf brother to foster care when they were young, as she struggles with two low paying jobs and a slew of friends who just can’t seem to be fully functioning members of society.
Marla works as a waitress and a medical records assistant, and she shares a house with her drug addicted/part-time prostitute roommate Dani. While Dani helps Marla remember to do things like pay the bills and go to work on time–things that Marla struggles with due to her partial FAS–Marla helps Dani in a lot of ways as well. Marla has been dating cello teacher Liam for several months, and when she finds herself pregnant, she doesn’t tell perfectionist Liam right away. Marla is happy about the pregnancy, thinking that she can be the type of mother to the child that she and her brother Gavin did not have, but her dreams are quickly squashed after she tells her foster parents and Liam about the baby. With her deaf brother Gavin visiting for an extended stay, Marla sees that his life isn’t as good as she thought it was since he went off to a special school. He’s isolated and has anger issues, and Dani finds that he can be easily manipulated.
With ideas of adoption, abortion, or raising the child on her own swimming through her head, Marla certainly doesn’t have any more room to deal with unemployment, a burgeoning romance between Dani and Gavin, or especially the breakdown of her relationship with the father of her baby.
Jennifer Spruit did a fantastic job writing terribly flawed characters that I just couldn’t stop reading about. Every character made mistakes and stepped right on to the brink where they could see where they were heading. Sometimes they stepped over the line, but sometimes they realized that they should take a step back. A Handbook for Beautiful People highlighted two disabilities that you don’t really see written about much these days, and these characters where delved into with emotion, depth, and immense thoughtfulness that left me with a realistic sense of these players as actual people.
I give A HANDBOOK FOR BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE a four out of five. While none of the characters are likeable all the time, they all do have their redeeming moments–and those moments make them shine when contrasted with their realistic, gritty, low points. It took me about 30 pages in before I started warming up to the characters, especially since they were all so grey–but I loved that none of them were perfectly good. This made for a fantastic read where everything is hopeless, but people find a way–always.
Find A HANDBOOK FOR BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE
About Jennifer Spruit
Jennifer Spruit was born in Lloydminster, AB/SK, and now lives in Courtenay, BC. She attended the Creative Writing MFA program at the University of British Columbia. Jennifer enjoys teaching kids, playing music, and paddling a blue canoe. This is her first novel.
Find out more about Jennifer at her website.
Connect with Jennifer Spruit
Jennifer Spruit’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS for A HANDBOOK FOR BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE:
Monday, May 21st: Comfy Reading
Monday, May 21st: A Bookish Way of Life
Thursday, May 24th: Instagram: @ladyofthelibrary
Friday, June 1st: Instagram: @prose_and_palate
Monday, June 4th: A Chick Who Reads
Monday, June 4th: Lit and Life
Wednesday, June 6th: Instagram: @quietmountainreader
Friday, June 8th: Openly Bookish
Monday, June 11th: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Tuesday, June 12th: 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Wednesday, June 13th: The Desert Bibliophile
Friday, June 15th: From the TBR Pile
Monday, June 18th: Bewitched Bookworms
Wednesday, June 20th: Instagram: @booenetics
Monday, June 25th: Eliot’s Eats
TBD: Peppermint PhD
TBD: Wining Wife
TBD: Tina Says…