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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Skinny Dipping

****½ Skinny Dipping by Connie Brockway. Women's fiction.

It's going to be hard to talk about this book objectively, since it left me really depressed. And no, it's not the book itself, it's me. I read it for the Cherry Forums Book Club discussion, and ended up completely blowing off the discussion because I was still processing the feelings it engendered. I still haven't finished, but it's probably been long enough that I can write about the book.

Mimi Olson is a slacker. She's smart and capable, but she's just squeaking by, eking out a living by working as a telephone medium. One thing her job does have going for it: she can take time off, and she lives for her summers at Chez Ducky, the family vacation home at Fowl Lake, Minnesota.

Only this year, things are changing. McMansions are going up around the lake, spoiling it--the worst is right next door, built by brilliant young eccentric millionaire Prescott Tierney. Worse yet, several of the older generation want to sell Chez Ducky, and nobody seems to be doing anything about it. The oldest female relative is generally in charge, but Mimi's oldest aunt is getting too old for the job, and the others are either unsuitable or won't take it. Mimi's aunt Birgie wants Mimi to take charge, for the sake of the family, but primarily for the sake of Mimi herself, because Birgie knows that Mimi loves Chez Ducky, and that if anything can shake her out of her lethargy, a threat to Chez Ducky will do it.

With all that on her mind, Mimi indulges in one of the family's usual pasttimes: skinny dipping. Unfortunately, her suit gets lost, and she's stuck in the lake, naked, with nobody close enough to hear her to help her out. So she sneaks out, covered in mud and leaves, and meets Joe Tierney when she's trying to see if there's a blanket in his car she can cover up with.

Hmm. I'm kind of overdoing the synopsis here. Moving along: sparks between Joe and Mimi, Mimi doesn't take charge and plans are made for selling. Months later, Mimi's back at Chez Ducky, wanting one last visit by herself. But Prescott gets injured trying to assist her when he thinks she's having convulsions (she's making a snow angel), and then Joe gets injured when he comes to take care of Prescott, and Mimi has all kinds of responsibility.

There are wonderful parallels in this book--Joe was a bad father to Prescott because he didn't understand him and Mimi's mother was a bad mother to her because she didn't understand her, either. Then there's the contrast between the ramshackle but loved Chez Ducky and Prescott's gorgeous but sterile Bombadil House. And the parallels between Prescott's view of and love for his house and for Mimi. And... Well. Just too much to mention.

The story is mostly about Mimi's growth, and to a lesser extent, that of Prescott and the relationship between him and Joe. Mimi is such an underachiever, and she finally realizes why, and also comes to terms with herself and her past. And that's what got to me. I could see too many parallels between myself and Mimi, but I'm still working on my own solution.

If it hadn't been so personal, I'd have thoroughly enjoyed Skinny Dipping. Lots of laughs, lots of realistic emotional content. As it is, it was a big kick in the ass that I suspect I needed.

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