Book Review: Doesn’t She Look Natural

Yes, I finally suffered through the last 100 pages. I probably should have put it down but I was hoping for a little character redemption. Disappointment was what I got for sacrificing an hour of my life that won’t come back. That was time I could have spent getting through 100 pages of a fluffy romance novel. But a girl must have something to blog about, right?

Doesn’t She Look Natural

Following a messy divorce that involves selling her home, quitting her job, and moving in with her mother, Jennifer finds herself without a clear plan. Then a call comes alerting her of an inherited property–a funeral home in a small backwater of Florida. Packing up her sons and mother she travels from Maryland to Florida to fix up the property and sell it quickly so she can return to her ‘real life’ and her ex-husband.

I was underwhelmed by this novel. I kept waiting for some wit to make it sparkle or a plot twist that made the three hundred plus pages more meaningful. Instead the book trudged along with unbelievable moments taking precedence over engaging characters. My reading was influenced somewhat by the fact I knew there was a sequel–I knew approximately how the book would end–but that doesn’t excuse the disappointment that I felt at the end of the book.

Hunt chose an odd method of narration–altering between Jennifer first person and her mother and other characters in omniscient third person. About the time I would get on a roll with one, the voice would change. But the voices weren’t consistent enough or independent enough for me to know always to whom we’d jumped. If Hunt had consistently used three voices to narrate or given equal time to the voices, I think it might have played out better but instead it was this side glance into someone else’s head and it was jarring as a reader.

I was unable to like Jennifer. For a woman who supposedly was able to manage chaos and politics on Capitol Hill, she was remarkably incapable of managing change in her own life. She spent the entire book mooning over an ex-husband who forced her to give up her job (to make his life easier) and their home as well as their marriage. All Jennifer seems to think about is looking backwards to her marriage even as she sees the problems with it, there are allusions to her having had a drug overdose that really don’t help with any kind of character development, and she seems too unconcerned about her five year old son, who spends a lot of time unsupervised. In Florida her willingness to be the latest thing come to mortician’s school is far too rapid. One page she’s incapable of being in the downstairs preparation area and seemingly the next she’s ready to undertake the funeral home as her new mission in life–despite barriers that are presented when she first looks at selling it. And somehow she changed wardrobes completely from “sleek suits” to “clothes she wouldn’t have dreamed of wearing three months ago.” Different clothes for different activities, sure, but does that mean you have to completely scrap your closet?

There’s a weird attempt at romance with the local lawyer, who might or might not have been pursuing the town librarian before (Jennifer and the librarian have a scene that made me wince painfully). Considering Jennifer’s inability to move on from her ex–it was awkward.

Hunt tries to redeem the ex-husband who shows up with plans to take them to Disney, announce his engagement to the sons’ former nanny and who ends up walking out the door “regretting for the rest of his life.” I’m a cynic but it didn’t make him a better person to me.

The ending was too convenient and someone in the editing process should have seen at least one major flaw: money comes from her ex-husband who is unexpectedly really well off financially. How? She has just finalized the divorce–she would have known about every dime the man had, or should have. How could his finances be that great of a surprise in less than a few months time?

One redeeming point to this novel was the Red Hat Societies. The brief glimpses of the older ladies in all of their caricature extremes were wonderful. I would have liked to see more of their verve and enthusiasm as opposed to Jennifer’s petulance.

In summary: I will not be reading the sequel.