Story: An all-too-realistic tale, Designer You by Sarahlyn Bruck is a story about Pam and Grace Wheeler – a mother-daughter duo whose world is turned upside down when their husband/father dies tragically. Nate was the most important person in both of these women’s lives, and Bruck shares the struggle and challenges they face in their new reality. Pam is forced to confront the day-to-day business dealings of the couple’s renovation business which consumes her thoughts and time. Grace is left alone and floundering in the merciless black hole of high school. Somehow, the Wheelers must look to repair their relationship and get back on the same team in order to survive.
Their fans deserved to know, and the full story needed to come from her.
Why: Initially, this book caught my attention because of the DIY blog/interior designer aspect. (Yes, I’m that person that loves HGTV and all things Joanna Gaines.) I wasn’t so sure after I realized that the book would be a lot of family drama, and even less sure after the first couple of chapters that made me hug my husband extra tightly! I’m glad I stuck it out however, and think the strong female lead character was a big reason why.
This. This is what you’re fighting for, she reminded herself as she drifted into unconsciousness.
Opinion: This wasn’t my usual light-hearted novel. There was no historical aspect. Not even much in terms of romance or mystery. Despite all of that, I ended up really enjoying this book. It is so authentic and real. Being an overly-empathetic person, these real-world struggles often bring me down and stress me out. There were definitely moments where I felt that because Bruck makes Pam – and Grace – so relatable, but I also feel like we as readers are reminded that it’s ok to be a mess sometimes! Or a lot of the time! Other than a lack of information at the end of the novel – personal opinion! – it is gratifying to see Pam work through her fears and reassuring to read a novel where everything doesn’t line up so picture perfectly all the time.
What was she expected to do, drop everything and start a new business from scratch?
Recommendation: Obviously, this book discusses the death of a spouse. I found that hard to read about at first, so if you have any apprehension about that, maybe be cautious about picking up this novel. Other than that, I think this book is best suited for the middle aged crowd, folks with children and those that enjoy stories of families overcoming adversity. The writing is accessible and straightforward, but I think the content is such that it would be most appreciated by readers with some life experiences.
“You’re going to be OK, hon. We’re going to be OK.”
Journaling Prompts: (If you haven’t read any of my other reviews, I enjoy putting together a few questions about the book for those that have already read, or choose to read the book after viewing this post!)
- There are relatively few characters in this novel. Discuss the roles of the minor characters such as Nate, Bernie, Principal Hicks, etc. How do they affect Pam? Grace?
- Who is the Becky in your life? Have you been a bit selfish with him or her?
- Where do you fall in terms of having stability/security and taking risks?
- What do you have in your life that occupies more time than it should? Have you had to make tough choices like Pam?
- Do you find the ending of the novel fitting? Why or why not?
About Designer You
Pam Wheeler checked every box: Happy marriage? Check. Fantastic kid? Check. Booming career? Check.
So when her husband dies suddenly and their DIY empire goes on life support, Pam must fix the relationship with her troubled and grief-stricken daughter and save the family business.
Pam and Nate were a couple who just couldn’t get away from each other, sharing not only their bed, but also a successful lifestyle empire as DIY home renovators, bloggers, podcasters, and co-authors.
When Nate dies in a freak accident, Pam becomes a 44-year-old widow, at once too young and too old—too young to be thrust into widowhood and too old to rejoin the dating pool.
Now the single mother of a headstrong and grief-stricken teenager, Pam’s life becomes a juggling act between dealing with her loss and learning how to parent by herself. On top of all that she also must reinvent herself or lose the empire that she and Nate had built so carefully.
It is time for Pam to seize the opportunity to step up as a mother, come out from behind Nate’s shadow, and rise as the sole face of the Designer You brand, and maybe, possibly, hopefully, find love again.
About Sarahlyn Bruck
Sarahlyn Bruck writes contemporary women’s fiction and lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter. She is the author of Designer You, published by Crooked Cat Books on August 31, 2018. Sarahlyn teaches writing and literature at a local community college and also coaches writers for Author Accelerator.
Designer You is Sarahlyn’s debut, and she is hard at work on her next book. Want the latest updates? Follow along for news, events, and announcements at sarahlynbruck.com. You can sign up for her monthly newsletter there, too.
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