Title: Beside Herself
Author: Elizabeth LaBan
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication date: October 22, 2019
Genre: Fiction, Women’s Fiction
Summary: Hannah is a happily married mother of two. Until she discovers her husband cheated on her. He assures her it’s over and literally becomes ill every time it comes up, but Hannah is still angry. After witnessing her best friend’s slow decline after her divorce, Hannah is caught between wanting a divorce and wanting to stay, but how can she even the score? By having her own affair, of course. Simple in theory, she quickly learns diving back into the dating pool is far from easy, and begins to learn what’s really important to her.
To say I was a bit disappointed by this book would be an understatement. From the book description, I was under the impression it would be Hannah’s journey of self-discovery after discovering her husband’s betrayal, as well as a humorous jaunt through the dating world. I expected something a little funny, a little sassy, and a bit more than eye opening. Unfortunately, it was none of that. Instead, I was stuck wondering why I, a happily married mother of two, would want to read a book about a woman who angrily decides to even the score by having an affair.
Okay, of course I knew she was going to go try to have an affair. But I thought it would be a bit funny and that she would realize divorce is just the easy answer. I thought it would be a journey of self-discovery as her mishaps in the dating world would somehow reveal hidden aspects of herself and her marriage. It was more of a woman walking around angry for most of the book. She felt self-absorbed in her own problems, ignored her kids on more than one occasion despite stating how devoted she was to her family, and, frankly, felt a little self-righteous. Oh, I get it. Her husband cheated on her. Of course she must be allowed months to process and ignore the world and her life’s demands! To make matters worse, her husband felt like a child. He would literally get sick every time his affair came up. He lacked any kind of backbone and became little more than a doormat in trying to win Hannah back. By the end, I honestly couldn’t figure out why he would want to be married to her, and that perhaps he had a reason for cheating: Hannah was too busy with her own life to even sit down and care about her husband.
I could go on and on about why I didn’t like Hannah. But, as a mom myself, I think I’ll just stick with the fact that she kept saying she was a devoted mom, and then kept brushing her kids aside until it suited her to deal with them. She spent more time going on bad dates, many of which the reader isn’t even privy to, than spending time with her family and trying to heal with her husband. She was so focused on evening the score that her character just completely lost me.
Needless to say, I had high expectations for this story. I’m disappointed it fell flat, but, even so, I think it wasn’t a bad story. I wonder how many couples who have dealt with infidelity have wondered what if they had tried to even the score? Would it bring them closer together, or push them into divorce? This book brings up an interesting question, one that I don’t think it could answer as every couple and every affair is different. But, for the purposes of this story and this couple, I think it was a good answer. Hannah’s husband was willing to do anything necessary to keep her, and she just had a lot of anger to process. I’m disappointed it took most of the book before her anger began to abate, but I’m so glad she had a key moment that brought understanding and a definite direction to her. As unhappy as I was with most of this book, that one scene really brought satisfaction to me, and hope that Hannah’s marriage going forward would be a better one. And, finally, the book actually made sense.
Overall, I thought this was a mildly interesting story. The characters were okay and the plot acceptable and mostly believable. I was disappointed by the setting (Philadelphia with a few named areas and streets, but no real sense of place) and felt it could really have been any suburb in the United States. It was nice to be able to think, “Oh, I know that area,” but it was hard to feel like I was there. This isn’t a bad book. It just wasn’t my cup of tea. I thought it would be one way, and it turned out to be another way. Simple as that.
How many cups of tea will you need?
3 cups will be fine.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for a free e-copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
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5 thoughts on “Book Review: Beside Herself by Elizabeth LaBan”
A very honest review. We need to see more like this. I think many book reviewers find it difficult. You gave us the positives (that scene that brought satisfaction) as well as the disappointments.
Have a great day.
Thank you so much. I try to be balanced as I hate turning someone off from reading a book, but it isn’t easy.