Title: More Like Her
Author: Liza Palmer
Release date: April 2012
Publisher: William Morrow
Format: Paperback (ARC)
Source: TLC Book Tours
Rating: 4 out of 5
“I’m not the girl men choose,” Frances begins in the first chapter of Liza Palmer’s More Like Her. “I’m the girl who’s charming and funny and then drives home alone wondering what she did wrong. I’m the girl who meets someone halfway decent and then fills in the gaps of his character with my own imagination, only to be shocked when he’s not the man I thought he was. I’m the girl who hides who she really is for fear I’ll fall short.”
Frances Reid, a speech pathologist at Markham, a private school, is riddled with insecurity after breaking up with fellow teacher Ryan. But after acknowledging her much-maligned flaws, Frances is ready to lose herself in the bustle of a new semester: new students, new challenges, and a new headmistress.
Emma Dunham seems to have stepped from the pages of Vogue. Everything about her is perfect—except for her inescapably awkward husband, Jamie. Emma’s perfect appearance, education and manners can’t cover up the fact that her dude is a serious loser—and that Emma has blinded herself to his flaws.
As Frances grows closer to Emma and learns of her unhappiness, she begins embarking on a relationship of her own with the hunky and humble Sam. Of course, all is not as it seems with Sam either—you don’t make it to your sexy mid-thirties and stay single without some scarring, after all.
But this isn’t your typical awkward-nerd-finds-love-in-arms-of-hot-Southern-gentleman romance. (Although it’s that, too.) There is something much deeper and more sinister lurking in the hallways of Markham. When disaster hits, Frances will discover that she is stronger than she thought—and she will learn that settling for the “perfect” life can end in tragedy.
Palmer’s fourth novel balances between snark and seriousness well. On the surface, the story is about an insecure woman striving for a perfect life, but it’s also about the sacrifices we make to keep up appearances, the dangers of settling for second-best, and the importance of living life to the fullest.
The tragedy of the book centers around a school shooting, a topic that is on everyone’s mind lately. But More Like Her goes beyond the seemingly random act of violence that shreds the lives of victims. It’s also about the strength and power of the individuals who fight back against their would-be murderers, and it’s a valuable examination of the mark that violence leaves—both on perpetrators and victims.
That being said, More Like Her is also funny and insightful, as when Frances recounts her first time alone with Sam:
As the silence permeates the space, I realize that it’s that terrifying point right after you’ve met someone when you wish you could talk to them for days. There’s so much you want to learn about them. But you have to hold yourself back from asking questions you simply don’t have the right to know the answers to yet. You are acutely aware that you barely know him.
Frances, terrified of showing her true self in a relationship, begins to plumb her own depths. “I’ve been overly available, sickeningly sweet and forever enabling all in the name of being ‘liked,’” she realizes. “I’ve compromised myself.”
Sam presents her with the chance to change–to date someone who challenges her and makes her better, not to date the man she thinks she deserves. But her relationship with Sam offers more than simply the chance at romance. After thinking about all that Sam has brought out of her, Frances says, “It comes to me that the person I really want to know about is me.”
More Like Her is more than a tragedy and certainly more than a romance. It’s one woman’s candid exploration of herself when she realizes she has nothing to lose. Tempered by tragedy, the book is ultimately uplifting.
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Don’t just take my word for it. Check out what other reviewers on the tour have said:
A Bookworm’s World
A Musing Reviews
Seaside Book Nook
Walking With Nora
A Bookish Way of Life
A Soul Unsung
Into the Hall of Books
Knitting and Sundries
The Book Chick
Peeking Between the Pages