09/27/2009 05:45 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Staying Sane While Picking Up the Pieces

Divorce is a common theme in many works of fiction; probably because we have all been affected by it one way or another and need to examine how something we were sure was so right eventually went so wrong. I couldn't help but consider this while reading Irene Zutell's Pieces of Happily Ever After (St. Martin's Griffin). Alice not only has to face that her husband left her, but that he left her for a very famous celebrity. This in turn puts a glaring light literally, thanks to the hounding paparazzo, on Alice's failings as a wife, mother and woman.

In spite of a marriage coming to an end and dealing with a mother with Alzheimer's, there are a number of humorous scenes that take place in this novel; for instance, when Alice discovers that her neighbors go over the top on cheesy Christmas decorating and she's expected to do the same otherwise she will also come up short in one other aspect of her life. Without a doubt, it is a frivolous concern in comparison to watching a loved one slip into a vacuum that sucks away any remnant of personality and I often kept wishing Alice would stop being the victim and learn to take control of her life.

The strongest character in Pieces of Happily Ever After is Gabby, Alice's five-year old daughter. Unfortunately, this reader found the child to be far too precocious for her age. Had she been perhaps ten years old, it would have been easier to accept the mature diction and complete sentences the author implements via Gabby to help reveal Alice's moods, struggles and concerns. We are told early on just how bright the little girl is, but it would have been more believable seeing how a five-year old reacted to the upheaval in her home instead of hearing her state it so clearly. However, Zutell does a wonderful job giving Alzheimer's a face in the character of Alice's mother, a woman whose communication is economical but colorful, thanks to the affects of the debilitating disease.

Eventually, Alice finds her way and this reader was grateful that Zutell didn't have a denouement wrapped in a tidy bow. This should give anyone experiencing drama in his or her life comfort to know that happily ever after comes in the moments between the disappointments, sadness and frustration. Pieces of Happily Ever After reminds us we just need to look for them.