Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, August 03, 2020

Book Give Away Winners and Some Reviews

Thank you so much to everyone who participated in the blog giveaway to win a copy of If You Can Get It. We had so many sign-ups that we drew two names, and so readers Mike and Callie have inscribed books wending their way through the US mails to them.

But of course, if you didn't win but would still like to have a signed copy, drop me an email at and I'll send you a signed bookplate which you can put into your own copy.

There have been some really wonderful reviews that people have written of If You Can Get It, and I wanted to share a few.

JulieD has a review up at HappyCatholic:
I couldn't put this book down, which is really surprising when you consider it is the sort of story that I usually avoid (2 sisters making their way in the modern world today).

These sisters are polar opposites who are 10 years apart, so there is a generation gap also. We follow Jen through career crises which shake her confidence in herself. Her experience in China made me laugh. I can easily believe the scenario is true to life. I really liked all the business experiences — they were well explained and I was on board. Meanwhile, Katie plays X-box all day until told to get a job. Which she breezily does at a Starbucks. I liked watching Katie find her levels of competence, none of which had to do with a job in the business world.
The publisher compares Jen and Katie to the sisters in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. (I'd say the book is more like Emma, actually, considering Jen's journey from having the perfect life to realizing others might have more on the ball than she thought.)

Thinking of that helped me see why I liked this book. Jane Austen talked about normal, ordinary life with regular people who were out of money, had lost their boyfriends, had silly parents, and who thought they were in control of their lives. This book is the same sort of story. It is not Jane Austen to be sure. But it doesn't try to be. In some senses it reminds me of the gentle novels by Elizabeth Caddell or Enchanted April or Miss Buncle's Book. Although it is not those novels either. They are hard to categorize and so is the appeal of this one....
Click through to read the whole hting. Her point about the novel being difficult to categorize is something that's been particularly striking me as I try to do my part to market the novel. A standard marketing approach is to identify readers who like a particular book or TV show and assure them that if they like that, they will find this to be more of the same. That works great with clear genre books, but less well with difficult to classify pieces. And this, apparently, is just such a difficult to classify novel.

Another reviewer who talked about the difficulty of classifying the novel is someone who reviewed it on Goodreads. I'm particularly gratified by this one because it's written by someone I didn't know and also someone who isn't Catholic and thus was addressing the novel with an outside perspective. As such, I couldn't be more happy than to see this kind of reaction:
This book is fantastic, but I'm having a really hard time characterizing it. It's not romance, though there's romance in it. It's not women's fiction/chick lit, though it has many elements of that genre. It's maybe something like faith literature (if such a thing exists), because frankly, this book is one of the best examples I've ever read of that (maybe made-up) type. But even saying that is unfortunately misleading because while faith is an important part of the story it is so naturally and thoroughly presented that it isn't at all didactic or pushy or any of what too many "faithful" authors fall into when they try to let their faith be the ends and means of a story.

The thing is, faith (or even religion) doesn't even show up until well past midway in the story. Hodge does an incredible job pulling me into Jen's life and making me care about her. She's so lonely and barely knows it, so seeing her navigate one big disruption after another and come into herself through those disruptions was brilliantly done. Building the connection with her much-younger sister is only the start of her reevaluation of her priorities and I loved being along as she stumbled and learned and grew.

And even more brilliantly well-done is Hodge's use of the specific to connect with and illustrate the universal. Jen's family was nominally Catholic growing up so we see lots of that variety of faith in the story as her parents and their community come on-scene later on. But we get a lot of variation within that specific community; from Paul, the deeply devout but thoroughly humble, to her parents who are enthusiastic with the simplicity of the newly re-converted, to her sister who we see go through a discovery and exploration journey. Jen's own journey is more complex and maybe that's the power of this story; for if the point is to show Catholicism as superior then it's interesting that our only viewpoint character explicitly doesn't end up following that path herself. She gains respect and understanding for it. And becomes an enthusiastic supporter of her newly-devout family. But it's clear that isn't going to be her path, or at least, not in that way.
A note about businessy things: Jen is a capable and high-performing manager/director and we see a lot of that on the page. Hodge obviously knows his stuff and gets literally all of the details right. This is a rare and powerful thing and one I deeply appreciated. Better still, he doesn't bog down on those details at all, instead putting them firmly in service to the story. I'll read more of him for this alone because, like action sequences, business details are really hard to translate into story without bogging down. So seeing someone do so seemingly effortlessly is a real treat.
A note about Faith: I already said most of what I wanted to about this topic above, but am adding this note to those it might reach who are Mormon (like me). Get this. Read it. It's fantastic and I think you'll really enjoy it.
You can read the full Goodreads review here.

I think the answer to the difficulty I mentioned, of marketing a hard-to-classify novel such as this, is that it really has to spread by word of mouth and reviews. As such, if you read it and enjoy it, do please post a review and tell others that you enjoyed it. I don't begrudge the world the chance to read Sassy-Talking Strong Woman Saves The World From Evil With The Help Of Scruffy Man VI, but I'd like to think there's a place in the literary world for endeavors such as this as well.  

Amazon reviews and ratings are also particularly helpful, so if you've read the novel (and especially if you've bought it from Amazon and would thus be a "verified buyer") do please take a moment to give it a star rating or write a review.

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