When Lucy Shoreman discovered that her charming, cheating husband was dying, she came home, opened up his little black book, and decided she wasn’t going through this alone. After all, Artie’s sweethearts were there for the good times—is it fair that Lucy should have to manage the hard times herself? But when she dials up the women in Artie's black book and invites them for one last visit, the last thing she expects is that any actually show up.
But one by one, they do show up: The one who hate him. The one who owes her life to him. The one he turned into a lesbian, and the one he taught to dance. And among them is a visitor with the strangest story of all: the young man who may or may not be Artie’s long-lost son.
For Lucy, the jaw-dropping procession of women is an education in the man she can't forgive and couldn't leave . And as the women find themselves sharing secrets and sharing tears, they start to discover kindred spirits - and even something that's a lot like family. But Lucy knows one thing for certain: the biggest surprises are yet to come.
Filled with heart, humor, and wisdom, Bridget Asher’s unforgettable novel turns a fresh eye on the joys and catastrophes of marriage, family, kindred friendships between women—and the sort of forgiveness that can change one’s entire life in the most unexpected and extraordinary ways.
Lucy Shoreman had a perfect romance with the perfect man - or so she thought until she found out that Artie had cheated on her with more than one woman during their marriage. She is determined to leave him behind and reclaim her life until she finds out that he is dying. He is determined to win her back and set about wooing her despite the fact that he is very ill. Unable to face the thought of caring for the man that she both loves and hates by herself she calls in backup - by drunk dialling some of the names in his little black book. She has no idea that some of them will actually turn up!
Lucy decides that Artie still needs to learn his lesson before he dies and she lets all of them loose at him. The ones who still think he is a good guy, the ones who loathe him, the ones that he has made a positive difference to - all of them. Amongst all the women who come to see Artie are Elspa and Eleanor. Elspa is a former drug addict who insists that Artie saved her life. Eleanor's motivations for sticking around aren't quite so clear. They do both however agree to stick around and help Lucy care for him in his final days, along with Lucy's oft-married mother!
The women are not the only secret that Artie has kept from Lucy - he has a grown son who he has never actually met. When Lucy decides that this is another area of his life that needs to be fixed before he dies, she orchestrates a meeting between Artie and his son John especially seeing as Artie has said in his will that she must be the one who decides exactly how much of his fortune John deserves.
Gradually the focus shifts a little from just being about Artie and Lucy to also encompass the issues that everyone has, and the newly formed group begin to bond and form a strong friendship. As well as looking at the most obvious themes of mortality and grieving, the book also examines how family can be formed by groups of people who aren't related at all and about people being able to change when someone has a little belief in them.
The reason why I initially borrowed this book was because I had heard of the author's latest book The Provence Cure for the Broken Hearted but my library didn't have that book on the catalogue yet so I thought I would start with her backlist. A quote from Marisa de los Santos on the cover was also another draw card for me.
I quite liked the writing and characters but must confess that I struggled a little with the premise of the book and also with the character of Artie. Even in his dressing gown in his deathbed I found him to be quite smarmy and yet I still found myself charmed and amused by all the little cards that he sent to Lucy. Was Artie a cheating bastard,was he misunderstood or perhaps both? I wavered backwards and forwards in my reaction throughout the book.
The story line was also interesting, if not a little predictable, but I was also a bit uncomfortable with the direction of the story at the end of the novel, particularly in relation to John.
All in all this was a fun and easy read that you could knock over easily in a few hours, but it is not without its flaws. I am still tempted at the thought of reading Provence, possibly because of my continuing infatuation with all things French, but also because I do see some potential in the writing.