If you’re looking for a summer read that’s a little more meaty than the average chick-lit book, I recommend “You Take It From Here” by Pamela Ribon. Full disclosure: Pamie is my absolute favorite author, so I was pretty much in the bag for her fourth novel before I opened the cover.
The story, which takes the form of a letter, begins in the small southern town of Ogden, Louisiana. The narrator, Danielle, has just arrived at the airport and is waiting for her best friend Smidge to pick her up. The two are headed on their annual vacation, to a spot Smidge has chosen and kept secret from Danielle. Ogden, the town both grew up in, is still Smidge’s home, where she lives with her husband and thirteen-year-old daughter, Jenny (the recipient of the letter). Danielle, on the other hand, is visiting Ogden from Los Angeles, where she now lives and works. Recently divorced, she enjoys a successful career in L.A.
Smidge chooses a road trip, and takes the opportunity to tell Danielle that the cancer she has beaten once is now back, and her prognosis is not good. Danielle, feeling guilty about being absent during Smidge’s last bout with cancer, is willing to do anything to make her friend’s remaining time on Earth as comfortable as possible. But Smidge makes the one request – scratch that – the one demand, that Danielle is least expecting: she wants Danielle to take over her life. Marry her husband, raise her daughter, keep up with her social obligations; become Smidge 2.0.
This book is at the same time heartbreaking and uplifting. The relationship between the two women, especially when the power shifts from one to the other, is inspiring and lovely. It can also be frustrating at times. I think I saw some of myself in both of these women, which is probably why some of their traits drove me absolutely nuts. Smidge is bossy, self-assured, and incredibly stubborn. It’s a little irritating how Danielle never stands up for herself. But, these things made me think: What in the world would I do in that situation? Even if your best friend has been bossing you around since childhood, and you’ve never bothered to question her, can you really start when she’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer? And of course, things are not always as they seem, and everyone has their reasons for acting and interacting the way they do. This book definitely made me look at things differently than before.
I laughed a lot while reading this book (when Smidge described a man Danielle dated as having “rapist hair” I not only laughed out loud, but could picture exactly this poor man and his terrible hair). I also shed some tears during this story. As I said, it tackles some issues that will absolutely make you think. There are plenty of books out there about people suffering from cancer. And there are more than enough books about women being friends. “You Take It From Here” strikes the perfect balance, discussing death without being morbid, and describing friendship without being cutesy. By the end of this novel, you will care about these women and their fates, even if you don’t agree with their decisions.