Recently, I experimented with the cool keyword search feature on Amazon using words like those I might tag onto my soon-to-be-published book, US, NOW AND THEN. I wanted to see what else was out there. You know, size-up my competition. I used something like “fiction, friendship, adoption, reunion, Nevada.” VEGAS GIRLS popped up and looked intriguing.
In VEGAS GIRLS, three high school friends, now in their mid-thirties reunite for a birthday party in their hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada. Ivy, whose mother left when she was young, has recently moved back to Las Vegas and seems happily married with a year-old baby. She worries her mother may be back in town too. Does she want to see her? Unmarried singer-songwriter Ramona, thinks she might be pregnant and searches for the child she gave up for adoption nineteen years ago. Jane is struggling through a marital rough patch that includes raising two little kids, being fired from her job, and a husband who is taking forever to finish his dissertation.
Author Heather Skyler portrays the innermost struggles of these women very well using up-close-and-personal multiple third-person style structured around the timeline of the one week they are together. She also does a fine job of giving the reader a feel for what it might be like to call Las Vegas home. The neighborhoods, the surrounding desert and mountains, the people.
Some insights for this thoughtful writer:
“There must be some link, Jane thought, some pull between you that would reveal the connection of parent and child. Or maybe there was nothing. Maybe this person you’d given birth to was just another stranger in the end.”
“She made a bargain with herself long ago that she must accomplish something important. It was only fair. If she chose not to raise her own child, then it had to be worth it somehow.”
“One of the most difficult parts of having kids was that when you screwed up or failed there was an audience, an audience that was watching you in order to learn how to live, or how not to.”
“She had been loved then and happy, but she hadn’t realized it. If she’d known how tenuous that feeling was going to be for the next ten or twenty years, she would have cherished it, held the emotion close and memorized its every slope and valley.”
“Being happy was a sort of a perk, an extra that came to you in odd moments, then was gone. It was not continuous and steady. You could not rely on it to be there every morning.”
While I appreciate the skill with which Skyler tells her story, and recall and even empathize with the stress of that period of my life, I’m seventy years old now. Her story is a younger woman’s story, one from my daughters’ generation. These women are just now learning what many of us learned long ago, that life has ups and downs. You’ve got hang on to what’s important and embrace the journey, even if it doesn’t look like you thought it would.
Certainly, VEGAS GIRLS contains some of the same elements as my book—a reunion of old friends, a child given up for adoption, homecomings, an absent parent, family stresses—but it’s not the same story. Claire and Libby, my main characters, are learning different lessons in their fifties. They’re looking for second chances, for third acts. They are learning that it’s never too late. I think there is room for those stories too. What do you think?