I am a book reviewer for NetGalley, which means I received this book for free in exchange for a review. Click here for more information.
Author: Nicole Dieker
Genre/category: General fiction
Where can I buy it? Here
Release date: 22nd May 2018
If this looks familiar, it’s because it’s a sequel to (perhaps unsurprisingly) Biographies of Ordinary People Volume 1: 1989-2000, which I reviewed earlier this year. When I read Volume 1, I felt that the characters were interesting and realistic, but that it was very much a character-driven novel. As the title suggests, it is supposed to be about ordinary people – not people whose lives look like soap operas. It wasn’t full of dramatic twists, but it did feel very real.
Then the author kindly offered for me to read the second one, which I was really excited about. And I’ve been meaning to write this review for a while because – wow.
I loved it!
I thought I might miss the nostalgic feel of the first book – the Gruber girls grew up around the same time period that I did, and I liked that nineties vibe. As it turned out, I didn’t need to worry about that. Volume 2 spans from 2004-2016, and it served as a reminder of how much of our culture changed in that short space of time. The girls are women now, and they’re navigating their world, moving away from home, figuring out relationships and careers, and just generally trying to find their place in the world. In that time, they see the explosion of social media. They see YouTube becoming a thing (particularly in Jackie’s case). And finally, they see the election of Trump, and the political landscape as they know it changing beyond recognition.
I’ll quickly sum up the three Gruber daughters and their respective journeys – Jackie, the youngest, follows her heart, comes to terms with her sexuality, and kind of stumbles into a very interesting career path. Natalie takes what is perhaps the most ‘traditional’ life choices of the three. And Meredith enters the relentless struggle that is the desire to make art vs. the need to make actual money. Helplessly creative and full of determination, it is Meredith’s story that struck me as the most interesting, and nuanced, and, well, real. And although she has her own, personal moments of happiness, to see a main character in a story genuinely grapple with how she can somehow make her creative pursuits a career was so refreshing. Nothing gets handed to her on a plate, and there are plenty of doors that get slammed in her face along the way.
Another interesting – and poignant – viewpoint was of Rosemary and Jack, the Gruber parents, still living in their small town in the Midwest, now with an empty nest. I felt so strongly for Rosemary as she watched her grown daughters and pondered her place in their lives, that it almost felt like an ache when I read her chapters.
I think I would have liked to have heard more from Natalie. I don’t remember as much of her story off the top of my head, and I remember thinking I wanted to know more about her. That is a small complaint though in an otherwise wonderful story, whose characters settled into my heart and stayed there. One of my favourite reads this year.
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