Happy Thursday, Reading Nook readers!
Today, I'm thrilled to review Searching for Grace Kelly by Michael Callahan. This is a beautifully tragic story about three girls who move to New York to pursue their dreams.
As they live in the acclaimed Barbizon Hotel and fall for several very different men, they end up learning about themselves, and how their friendships, relationships and ambitions will change them forever.
Paperback, 288 pages
Expected publication: January 27th 2015 by Mariner Books
However, after reading the book, I quickly realized that Searching for Grace Kelly is far more than just a coming-of-age story about three very different women. It's also a thoughtful study on societal norms, and the challenges of bucking (or accepting) tradition, when dictated by the rest of society-at-large.
Michael Callahn introduces us to Laura, Dolly and Vivian, three very different girls who are drawn to the Barbizon Hotel in New York City, to pursue their dreams. Laura's an East Coast blueblood determined to prove herself as a writer; Dolly is from a hardscrabble neighborhood trying to work and carry out the all-important goal of securing a husband, and British Vivian just wants to be a singer.
While the girls come to New York with big ideas and even bigger dreams, they quickly learn that not everything will go as easily as they would hope. They're limited up by societal convention and outside competition, and the realization that not everyone has their best interests at heart.
But even as Callahan shows the girls sometimes become the unwitting pawns of individuals with complicated intentions, he's also careful to show the girls beginning to develop the savvy and intiution to deal with some of these manipulations in their lives. It's not an easy lesson to learn; it often times involves the girls becoming disenchanted with aspects of their lives that they once held dear - a lesson that Dolly and Vivian learn especially acutely as their stories progress. However in many cases, they also come out stronger as a result.
As compelling as the stories of the three main characters may be, readers can't forget the secondary characters as well. Metzger, Nicky, Jack, Pete, Box, Betsy and Connie, all have collective lessons and wisdom to share with the main characters, with both their past triumphs and failures contributing to helping the girls learn from their mistakes. Metzger's story especially is a sad one, but also a good reminder of how individuals are also thrown curveballs in life, and are able to cope with those challenges as a result.
Ultimately, while none of the girls have their life plans come to fruition in exactly the way that they want - with one story ending particularly tragically - it's their individual and collective journeys that stay with each other, and with the reader.
Michael Callahan has created a memorable cast of characters, whose journeys to figure out who they are and who they want to be, are absolutely relatable and understandable to any reader of today. While Laura, Dolly and Vivian may not end up getting all that they desire, it's their pursuit of the seemingly impossible in the face of significant odds, which makes this a memorable, unforgettable read.
I highly recommend this book for fans of historical fiction, especially for readers who are looking for protagonists whose struggles, challenges and lives are as relatable to the challenges that many of us continue to face today. There's a universality to Callahan's work, which will help ensure that it will stand the test of time.
About the author:
Michael Callahan is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and a former deputy editor at Town & Country and Marie Claire. His articles have been published in more than two dozen national magazines, including Men's Health, Real Simple, Vibe, and Good Housekeeping. Searching for Grace Kelly is his first novel.