Happy Thursday, Reading Nook readers!
Today, we're thrilled to spotlight and share our review of New Uses for Old Boyfriends by Beth Kendrick.
I haven't read any of Beth's work prior to this, but I loved this story about a girl who returns to her hometown, and through some gumption (and some new friends), is able to rebuild her life.
Paperback, 336 pages
Published February 3rd 2015 by NAL
Format read: Finished copy via Publisher
Lila Alders returns to her hometown after a failed relationship and losing her job, but through the help of some good friends and some ingenious couture, is able to begin rebuilding her life - in style!
The former golden girl of Black Dog Bay struggles to reinvent herself by opening a vintage clothing boutique. But even as Lila finds new purpose for outdated dresses and tries to reunite with her ex, she realizes that sometimes it’s too late for old dreams. She’s lost everything she thought she needed but found something—someone—she desperately wants. A boy she hardly noticed has grown up into a man she can’t forget...and a second chance has never felt so much like first love.
And seriously, I'm so glad I did. This book is quiet and delightful, and seriously reenergized me after I finished reading.
Things that worked:
We meet Lila just as she's hit a low point in her life - she's newly divorced, unemployed and about to move back to her hometown for the first time in many years. While she's obviously suffering from all of these pitfalls in her life, Beth is careful to make sure that Lila maintains a sense of practicality and optimism, even as she tries to figure out what to do next.
Readers will undoubtedly love Lila's willigness to tackle new challenges in her hometown - including trying to figure out how to mow a lawn and fix the water heater. There's a certain can-do attitude that really drives Lila's story, and it's impossible to not get caught up in her positivity and practicality, as she begins to figure out how both she and her mother can move forward from losing two very key aspects of their lives.
Beth's writing is as funny and familiar as a warm blanket and a cup of coco. She writes with an ease that immediately draws the reader into the story, while sprinkling her scenes with the occasional moments that will make readers laugh out loud.
(FUV will now officially be my name for SUVs that I see when driving!)
Sharing that ease in writing isn't easy, and I think that it ultimately made the reading experience even more worthwhile, and made me even more invested in Lila's story.
New Uses for Old Boyfriends isn't a long book, but it's a very well-plotted one. Beth sweeps us up in Lila's journey, and shows us how when she puts her mind to something, it feels like time flies by and is effortless.
(Seriously, the reading experience just flew by!)
The female relationships
Don't let the title deceive you - this isn't just a book about a girl reconnecting with some of her past boyfriends and looking for new relationships.
This is actually a very female-empowerment novel, with both Lila and her mother learning that they are just as capable and talented as the men in their lives, while also receiving the support of friends and other females within the community.
I loved seeing the friendships that Lila made upon returning home, and how each of her new friends contributed something new to their lives. I also loved Beth's inclusion of younger female characters - ranging from younger sisters to sorority girls - and deftly showing how each generation can pass something onto the next.
(Miss Delaware for the win!)
Honestly, I've never had such an appreciation for female relatioships like I did after reading this book, and I think other readers will absolutely get it.
However, with that being said...
The romantic angle
There are several different relationships in this novel, and I'm not about to spoil them for you. However, I will say that Beth does a great job of examining how relationships can click, and how something that once worked, may not work now. Conversely, she also shows how something that may not have previously work (or even registered!) for Lila, is now something extremely important in her life.
Lila does a lot of self-examination on what she wants in a relationship, and provides some nice, thoughtful moments that readers will appreciate.
While I was a little surprised at how the ending played out - more on this in a bit - I really appreciated the fact that Beth was willing to take such an interesting writing risk. It really drives home the point that Lila, her mother and all of their friends have grown throughout the course of the novel, and are handling adversity differently than they have before.
It's a great lesson, and makes the reading experience all the more worth it.
Things to consider:
I personally would have loved to have seen them expand on their business even more, but I absolutely understand why Beth made the writing decision that she did. In many ways, it proves that Lila and her mother have learned from their experience, and are now able to gamely cope with adversity and maintain grace under pressure.
As someone who has definitely had some Lila-esque moments, I finished reading the book feeling revved up and ready to tackle the world in the same way that she has. I have no doubt that other readers will feel the same way, and I strongly encourage all of you to read this book as well.
(Best part: it's already on sale, so you can get it now!)
Highly recommend for fans of contemporary fiction. Get this book - it will make you smile, and reenergize your outlook on life.