A Walk in the Park

Back to the silly British chick lit I go! Another delight from Jill Mansell, A Walk in the Park made me feel warm and fuzzy all over.

Lara Carson is back in Bath (England) after almost 20 years away, which we soon find out is because she ran away from home at the ripe old age of 16 because she was pregnant and had a horrible relationship with her father and stepmother. She’s back to attend her estranged father’s funeral, after which she finds out that the house she grew up in was left to her by her late mother long before her father died. Lara and her daughter Gigi (consider them a British version of Lorelai and Rory Gilmore) decide to stay in but completely redo the house in Bath, and no one could be happier about it than Lara’s childhood friend Evie. But no one could be more confused about it than Lara’s high school boyfriend Flynn, the father Gigi has never known.

Multiple story lines unfold when Lara discovers that her mother may not have been faithful to her father, who may not really be her father at all, and Evie discovers her soon-to-be husband has not been faithful to her the morning of their wedding, and Lara and Flynn try to find a way to co-parent without being angry about the past or too hopeful about the future, and so on and so forth. The only one that didn’t make much sense for the story was an American rapper, EnjaySeven, discovering a rare shirt manufacturer in Keswick, where Lara and Gigi used to live, the owner of which happens to be a friend of Lara’s, and the shirt guy and the rapper become sort of a viral odd couple. Their interactions in the book are certainly funny, I just think Jill could have tied that to the greater plot a little better.

What I love about Jill Mansell novels is that they all center around major life changes somewhat late in women’s lives — many of her protagonists are women age 30 and up with children age 13 and up who have major career or love or other community changes that end up working out just swell for everyone involved, and they usually start off with a bad change that turns into something wonderful. I know it’s centered around British culture rather than American and it’s all quite unrealistic, but it’s just nice to read.

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