My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Goodreads: In this first adult novel by the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the unforgettable Crank trilogy, three female friends face midlife crises in a no holds-barred exploration of sex, marriage, and the fragility of life.
Ellen Hopkins has made her mark as the wildly popular author of several novels for young adults—every one of them a New York Times bestseller, and every one a hard-hitting exploration of tough-to-tackle topics. Now, in Triangles, Hopkins brings her storytelling mastery and fearlessness to take on the challenges of adult dramas.
In this emotionally powerful novel, three women face the age-old midlife question: If I’m halfway to death, is this all I’ve got to show for it? Holly, filled with regret for being a stay-at-home mom, sheds sixty pounds and loses herself in the world of extramarital sex. Andrea, a single mom and avowed celibate, watches her friend Holly’s meltdown with a mixture of concern and contempt. Holly is throwing away what Andrea has spent her whole life searching for—a committed relationship with a decent guy. So what if Andrea picks up Holly’s castaway husband? Then there’s Marissa. She has more than her fair share of challenges—a gay teenage son, a terminally ill daughter, and a husband who buries himself in his work rather than face the facts. As one woman’s marriage unravels, another one’s rekindles. As one woman’s family comes apart at the seams, another’s is reconfigured into something bigger and better. In this story of connections and disconnections, one woman’s up is another one’s down, and all three of them will learn the meaning of friendship, betrayal, and forgiveness before it is through.
My take: Ellen Hopkins has a way of connecting with her readers in a way that seems almost intimate and a little voyeuristic. Her novels are written in poetic verse - some more artistic than my non-artistic mind can wrap around - but the story is always touching on some level.
Be forewarned Hopkins is not a tiptoeing author. Her previous novels, written for young adults, tackles difficult subjects head on. This one is much more graphic than her previous books. Hopkins tackles the difficult stage of the middle age woman, using three women whose lives constantly intersect, like a triangle.
Marissa is stretching towards her mid-forties. She is a stay-at-home mother who is bitter with the cards she has been dealt. Marrying later in life than her contemporaries, she was a stewardess who fell for a passenger, married him, and settled in Reno, Nevada. She is the mother of two children; Shane, her 16 year old gay son and Shelby who is terminally ill and expected to live only months into her fourth year. Christian, her husband, is often absent and Marissa is filled with resentment as her life is completely engulfed in caring for Shelby and dealing with her gay son on her own. When her husband makes an appearance, he is usually drunk.
Andrea is a divorced mother of a 14 year old daughter, Harley. Her specialty is dead-end relationships. Although she craves companionship she knows her tastes tend toward the unavailable - her last relationship being with Geoff, a man who forgot to tell her he was still married. He was also an ugly drunk. Andrea is also the younger sister of Marissa. Both girls are the result of a marriage born of free love hippies. One of the girls may not be the daughter of her identified father. Andrea is a passive player who lacks backbone, at least in the beginning of the book. Andrea covets what Holly has.
Holly is a friend of Andrea's. She is the discontented housewife hiding behind the perfect, successful husband and three lovely children. Adopted as a baby, Holly sought security early in her college career which she cut short. Holly and Jace have the suburban dream. Now Holly is reaching her fortieth birthday and she wonders how life would look if she was not married or a mother. Holly begins a hedonistic second adolescence beginning with innocent flirting at a bar and littered with lies and ideas for her writing career in Erotica.
Although the story is about sex and love, it is also about commitment, friendship and acceptance. It's a difficult book to read for so many reasons. There is loss, betrayal, one character who pursues hedonistic sex. There are also subjects that the middle age woman doesn't want to admit - different figure, lines and sags, existential questions, life defining moments of, "So this is it?" Redefinition of love and marriage, reasons for staying, choices of leaving and all of it fascinating in a sociological way at a distance, a personal way closer to the age of forty or so.
If I were to be perfectly honest, I would admit that I identified with each of the characters at least to some extent. Questioning the social mores, religious morality, purpose of life, home, God's will and chance are all part of adult stages of life. Some of these issues were definitely taken to the extreme by some of the characters in the book. And yet I am glad Hopkins went that direction for the reader's benefit. It was a strangely discomfiting yet satisfying read.