Angel Falls

Between Sisters

Distant Shores

On Mystic Lake

Summer Island

The Things We Do For Love
by Kristin Hannah
(Ballantine, $23.95, PG) ISBN 0-345-46750-7
Kristin Hannah’s books are the literary equivalent of Lifetime TV for Women. If you like melodramatic tear-jerkers, you need look no farther than her latest release, The Things We Do For Love. Within the first ten pages, we observe the final breakdown of our heroine’s marriage after a long struggle with infertility. Let the tears begin!  

Angie and Conlan Malone had a storybook romance and marriage until their desire for children was met with repeated miscarriages and one final heartbreak, a preterm daughter who lived only a few days. Wrapped in her own misery, Angie grew farther apart from Con until their divorce was inevitable. Adrift and depressed, Angie now decides to move from Seattle to her small coastal hometown of West End and revitalize the family’s slumbering Italian restaurant. DeSaria’s has gone into decline in the few years since Angie’s beloved father died, and although her Mama soldiers on, assisted by Angie’s two older sisters, it’s obvious that the restaurant needs a serious infusion of energy to stay in business. Utilizing her marketing skills to tackle this project might be just what Angie needs to recover from her broken heart.  

Then Angie meets Lauren Ribido, a high school senior whose private school education and wealthy boyfriend are in sharp contrast to the crumbling apartment where she lives with a neglectful, alcoholic mother who resents her very existence. Desperate for rent money, Lauren takes a job waitressing at DeSaria’s and soon finds herself personally involved with Angie and her entire family. Lauren desperately needs nurturing and Angie needs to be nurture, but will the surprising changes in their relationship create a permanent bond or an irrevocable rift? And is Angie strong enough now to endure the potential loss of her dream once again?  

Hannah typically employs one of two kinds of heroines – misunderstood bitches (Between Sisters, Summer Island) or weepy women who have lost their way (Distant Shores, On Mystic Lake). While I’m more partial to the bitches, she tends to utilize the criers much more often. Angie Malone spends a large portion of this book in tears, mourning for her husband, her baby and her father. Fortunately, it’s not long before she realizes that she needs to stop drowning in self-pity and find a way to feel happy again. Once she gives herself a well-deserved kick in the butt, she demonstrates a healthy level of gutsiness, especially when she is forced to advocate for Lauren’s welfare, but that doesn’t mean she can’t still have a good crying jag periodically.  

And who wouldn’t stand up for Lauren? Hands down, she’s the most amazing adolescent I’ve ever encountered, and also the most unrealistic. As she and Angie become close, Lauren never displays one iota of adolescent attitude, narcissism or temper. While that would be incredible enough for a teenager with even the best upbringing, her impeccable behavior seems even more unbelievable in the context of her difficult childhood. Of course Angie wants to mother her – I wouldn’t mind adopting her myself.  

Despite Lauren’s unlikely behavior, Hannah is undeniably effective at tugging at those heartstrings, and by the middle of the novel I was caught up in the emotional bond between the would-be mother and the lonely teenager. I rooted for them to find a happy ending together despite the obstacles, and didn’t completely resent the sniffles the final chapters inspired.  

Hannah does create a fairly plausible picture of first love between Lauren and her boyfriend David, with all of its joys and heartbreaks. Unfortunately, we don’t know enough about Angie’s ex-husband Conlan to feel much of her pain about a their divorce; the arc of their relationship is overshadowed by the bond between Angie and Lauren. There are several interesting secondary characters, although I could have lived without Angie’s Mama, who has frequent “conversations” with her dead husband. If you do the math, she was probably born into the early Baby Boom generation, but she talks and acts more like an early 20th century Old World immigrant.  

The plot doesn’t have many surprises but it keeps moving along, stopping every so often to give the reader enough time to get a new Kleenex. If you like stylish weepers, Kristin Hannah is your woman. Let’s hope Lifetime TV finally realizes they’re missing a potential goldmine for new movies and buys the rights to her books.  

--Susan Scribner

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