book review

Book Review: They May Not Mean To, But They Do

Here it is. Your every so often book review.

I picked Cathleen Schine’s book, They May Not Mean To, But They Do, off the library shelf because the cover implied a kind of light impishness. And I know a book review of this sort is a lot more fun when I am laughing as I write it.

However, while the book is occasionally impish, it’s definitely not light. More of a “flickers of lit cabin windows while wandering in the dark woods” type of book. So, not a comedy. I would, however, qualify it as an important read.

They May Not Mean To is the story of a family growing older together. Schine pays close attention to the implications of the matriarch’s widowhood on her adult children. But she focuses even more intently on the widow herself. The balance between how Molly’s aging and widowhood effect her versus how her new status effects her children makes the book compelling. It is fascinating in a horrible “Oh no, the car is stuck on the tracks and the train is coming” sort of way.

The characters are complex and well fleshed out. But I don’t think Schine necessarily intended the reader to walk away thinking, “I wonder what happened to Molly?” The reader might but that may not be the goal.

Instead, the story is more an Everyman-type exploration of family dynamics in the wake of loss.

Shine pays careful attention to Molly’s complicated emotions and desires. Molly simultaneously wants and doesn’t want to spend time with her grown children. She wants and doesn’t want to be alone. And her children are legitimately torn between their desire to help and their resistance to making significant changes in their own lifestyles to do so.

They May Not Mean To is a good argument for the “There Are No Right Answers” theory of life. But I couldn’t help feeling frustrated at the lack of concrete solutions as I closed the book. Maybe that’s the point.

Rose Grey has written three romance novels and is hard at work on a fourth. If you liked this book review, come visit the rest of the blog at Hot Pursuit and Not As Advertised are available as ebooks and as paperbacks online.