My son graduated from college yesterday. And as much as it was a turning point in his life, I'm feeling as though it was one in mine as well. I've been thinking a lot lately about second chances. It's galling to be such a cliche, but I think I may be a part of that legion of women who find themselves at loose ends when their children leave home or when they reach a certain age. (Don't you love the phrase "une femme d'une certaine age?" Sounds so much better than "pushing 55," doesn't it?) We have been caretakers for so long, that when faced with time on our hands and no one to drive to soccer practice, we simply don't know what to do.
Until it dawns on us that maybe this is not such a bad thing.
I was recently asked to review a book about second chances. The Season of Second Chances, by Diane Meier, is the story of Joy Harkness, a woman who seems to have what she would consider the perfect life -- a tenured position at an Ivy League University, her work in print, and an apartment overlooking the Hudson (just) in New York City. Despite this, she begins to realize that what she has always strived to achieve may not be all that she thought it would be. When she is offered a teaching position at Amherst, in western Massachusetts, she jumps at the chance.
Joy buys an old, run-down Victorian house, and sets about renovating it with the help of a talented handyman who teaches her about sheet rock and masonry and tiling and, inadvertently, about life too. Joy has found her life in academe to be limited and sterile. She had a few friends, but has not really connected with them on an emotional level. And as a feminist of a certain age, she dismisses matters of style, both interior and personal, as unimportant.
As Joy settles into her new job and her new home, she acquires some real friends who both give and need emotional and real-world support. And the restoration of her beautiful old Victorian house becomes a metaphor of sorts for the emergence of Joy's restored emotional life.
The Season of Second Chances is the engaging story of a woman who takes a chance and finds her true self. Diane Meier is a wonderful writer and her characters are multi-dimensional. We are immediately drawn in by the voice of Joy Harkness -- intelligent, witty and engagingly vulnerable. She is a woman we would like to meet in real life. We watch with concern, and later with joy, as she emerges from her cocoon. And ultimately, we rejoice in the message that her story illustrates -- that no one is ever too old to recreate themselves.
And this, my dear bloggers, is the message that I suspect a lot of us need to hear. My son graduated from college yesterday. My daughter attends her senior prom tonight. Tomorrow may be "how in the hell did I get so freakin' old" day. But we can always reinvent ourselves. Like Joy.
Or like Madonna.
I think I'll stick with Joy. :)
by Diane Meier
Henry Holt & Co.