Walking With Elephants by Karen S. Bell

In this chatty first-person tale, “Walking With Elephants“, Karen S. Bell introduces the reader to Suze Hall. Suze has lived a conventional life, aside from a yearlong relationship with an art student while she was in college. She defines herself by what she is to other people. She is Bob’s wife; Skip, Ilana and David’s mother; Marcia’s friend; Elliot’s co-worker. She has a job rather than a career, and she floats through her life in the ordinary manner, feeling nothing very deeply.

Then everything starts to fall apart. Her husband accepts a six-month job assignment in Australia. Her children are growing up, and the oldest, Skip, leaves home. Her job is in jeopardy. Then, at a party one night, she runs into David, the art student from her past. He has become a superstar, a jet setter, rich, famous and still unbearably good-looking. What is going on with her life? Her comfort zone reduced to zero, Suze must confront old hurts, and take a long, hard look at whom she wants to be in the future.

With wit, warmth and wisdom, Bell leads us through the labyrinth of confusing and difficult decisions that face Suze. As Suze ponders her life—marriage, kids, job, friends, future, the whole shebang—the reader roots her on. When her friend Eleanor, a psychic, passes on a rather cryptic message from the spirits, “The answers are closer than you think…” (Bell 176), there is hope that it means good news. However, Suze fears that her husband is having an affair. Bell draws the reader in so that she wishes desperately for a happy ending, because Suze is just such a likeable character.

Beginning authors are often cautioned not to write books entirely in first person point of view, as it is rather hard to pull off without losing readers, but Bell manages it superbly. The supporting characters are not as well developed as Suze, since all the reader really sees is how she perceives them—but Suze is written so expressively with plenty of detail. The tone of the book is a bit like Erma Bombeck meets Bridget Jones—a hip mom who is also an up-and-coming executive, a woman who can whip up a mean meatloaf and land a job with a top women’s mag, too. Very winning, very recommended.

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