Review of UNSETTLING by Lynda Sandoval (see her website)
Rayo, June 2004
Cop Lucy Olivera is getting married--and freaking out. She's sure the Olivera curse, that no first marriage ever works, dooms her planned marriage. In this case, that would be terrible because Ruben is the real thing. With her family chipping in his and her gifts to make the property division easy, Lucy falls back on her friends. The four women were close in high school but in the twenty years after, they've drifted apart. Lucy is a narcotics cop who's afraid to get married. Mercedes is a magazine editor--whose career is about to go down the tubes with her loser boyfriend. Cristina is a society woman just caught shoplifting. And Annette is a serial mom--who suddenly realizes that she doesn't really have a life of her own and whose oldest daughter just announced that she's found the love of her life and she's another woman.
Getting the four women together seemed like a good idea and Lucy's friends resolve to keep their own problems on hold until they can get Lucy married, but a wedding can't work miracles--not even one that's reinforced with Vicodin. And once she realizes what's happened, Lucy heads for the hills. Her friends track her down but they can't solve her problems--let alone their own problems. The answer is a quest for a wise woman, a witch who has a way of finding the truth and helping people deal with their realities. Of course, finding this wise woman--if she exists at all--isn't going to be easy. But they're four smart women and they don't intend to let anything get in their way.
Author Lynda Sandoval takes the standard group-of-woman-friends subplot that woman's fiction has hammered to death and breathes new life into it. The epic quest that the four woman travel is sometimes Oz-like, as each discovers the courage, wisdom, or love that they know they need and have been denying. As each woman struggles to come to terms with their own issues, the bonds that connected them in high school reconnect and strengthen all four of them. Sandoval's strong and sympathetic writing makes each character feel real and emotionally complex.
Sandoval deals with real issues--drug addiction, compulsive shoplifting, low self-worth, and family conflicts, and she doesn't offer easy ways out. But she does offer hope--hope that doesn't depend on magic but that really is magic.
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