8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 2010
The story begins by relating how four college acquaintances meet again at a ten year college reunion. They each are looking for love, wanting to find themselves and wondering how they will improve the quality of their lives. The women are Naomi, Charlie, Bess and Sabine, and they all decide it is time for a change (each for different reasons). Charlie has just the right catalyst for the women, when she suggests that they take yoga classes from her in an effort to reconnect with themselves and each other. Charlie has opened up a business with a few other partners, and she offers yoga classes to the public. The book centers on the classes and the women's different reactions to going to the class and developing new relationships by opening their minds to something new.
The story begins with the premise that all of the women are not on the same footing socially and emotionally. In actuality, Bess has designs to write a story about the women to show that they have not followed their dreams and sold out on their plans for the future. Her intention is to show that she has done better than these women have, even though she is pretending to bond with them both in and out of the yoga class.
Throughout the book, the reader understands that Bess learns that she is not so unlike the women that she seeks to expose in her article. Each chapter is named for the women featured in the story. They chronicle the lives of the women, and show how they find or reject the idea of love, and describe how they make sense of the fabric of their lives.
The story also defines the progression of the women's journey into performing, understanding and learning to love themselves and love learning about yoga. There are a few predictable turns in the story, but the ending is first rate. I'd recommend this book to women of any age, it is a winner.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
I'm not a yoga person. Believe me I've tried. I've just never gotten into the craze and to be honest I'm not very flexible. Still, I was drawn to this book because I love stories about friendship. And this book definitely did not disappoint. Even if you're clueless about yoga like me, it's absolutely possible to really enjoy this book. The writing is refreshing and relaxing almost as if you have done a session of yoga yourself.
I read this book after a recent first time trip to New York City and I was very excited to read about the city as this was the first book I had read that took place in NYC since my trip. Even though I didn't recognize any of the places, the story takes place in Brooklyn which is where I stayed for my trip as well as mention of the subway. This might be old news for folks who are New Yorkers or have been there several times but for me it was very exciting that I could finally relate to what everyone was talking about.
All four of the characters were easy to relate to and I found myself liking all of them. Naomi's character was probably my favorite as I felt her story involving her son, her ex and her medical issues, to be very in depth and yet engaging to read. Bess, while annoying me at bit at first, soon grew on me as she struggles to find her identity between her life in NYC and with her boyfriend. I really liked her visit with her parents as it helped her to discover where she belonged. Charlie's story didn't really stand out to me as the other three did but I really liked how her story is the anti Sex and the City. She was very brave to go after what she felt her heart wanted as opposed to staying in a job that was financially secure. Sabine's story had be cracking up. I loved her reactions with Subway guy because that's probably who I would have acted myself and I found myself laughing over the situation. I was very worried for a bit that the Sabine/Zach storyline was going to end up like an episode of Sex and the City where the good guy gets dumped for a jerk. I won't spoil the ending but I'll say I was VERY satisfied when my assumptions turned out wrong.
I really loved how the stories blended together yet each character was given her own separate story. The writing in the book flows very nicely and I was immediately drawn into the story. I wouldn't say this book is chick lit although it can read like one. More so, it's a book about women and friendships and how life may not turn out the way you had intended but it still works out for the best. I liked how even though not everyone has a conclusion that is entirely happy, it is where they accept their lives to be for the time period. This is Fishman's debut novel and it's a winner. I cannot wait to read her next book no matter what the subject as long as she keeps writing like this. VERY HIGHLY recommended. Namaste.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
NOTE: I received a review copy of this book from the web site Metapsychology Online; you can read a more complete version of my review on that site.
Balancing Acts, the debut novel from author Zoe Fishman, centers around four women in their early thirties who meet up at their ten-year college reunion. Charlie, who left the world of Wall Street to become co-owner of a yoga studio in Brooklyn, is attending the reunion with the idea of spreading the word about her studio. At the urging of her mother, Sabine reluctantly signs up for the reunion after realizing that all of her social engagements can't involve her cat. Similarly, her former freshman roommate, Naomi, hopes that the reunion will help her to re-establish a life outside of her world as a single mom. Finally, tabloid writer Bess has her own motives, thinking that the lives of these women might make a great story. Once these four college friends get re-acquainted, Charlie convinces them all to take a six-week series of beginner's yoga classes at her studio; the growth of the women follows the course of these classes.
Fishman shifts perspectives throughout the book: each chapter is told from the point-of-view of either one of the women or of an event, such as one of the classes. This allows for an in-depth look into each of the main characters, all of whom are well-developed. Bess has a particularly interesting progression over the course of the novel, and it is certainly refreshing to see a female character in a stable, healthy relationship from the START of the book. Although this novel is generally very well-written, with an enjoyable plot and strong, non-stereotypical female characters, I did have a few minor issues with it which I attribute largely to poor editing. First, throughout the book, Fishman frequently uses the nonsensical punctuation marks "?!" and "!?" This unfortunately makes what is otherwise a good book read more like a middle school diary (or worse, a text message). Secondly, in a book that centers around yoga, I personally believe that it is vital for all the yoga references to be correct. Generally Fishman does a good job here, but very early in the novel, she makes a glaring error (for the yogis: when Charlie performs tree pose, Fishman writes that she has "her foot resting on the inside of her knee"--anyone with any yoga experience knows that the foot is never placed inside the knee in tree pose!).
Fishman has written a solid first novel that is likely to appeal to women, yet is higher quality than most of what is commonly referred to as the "chick lit" genre. I would definitely recommend this book, especially to readers who also have a passion for yoga.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2010
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
A story about four single women in NYC who meet up at their 10-year college reunion (they were only acquaintances in college, not real friends) and decide to bond during a 6-week intro to yoga class.
It's like Sex & the City meets the Friday Night Knitting Club. Only, with yoga mats instead of yarn. Charlie quit her fast-paced Wall Street job to teach yoga and open a yoga studio in Brooklyn; the others include a lapsed-photographer single mom; a romance novel editor who's a lapsed writer; and a lapsed journalist who now writes celebrity gossip.
Needless to say, they are all single (though one has a BF) and looking for love. They DON'T find it in the yoga studio, though! Haha. That would make a good story. I'm very, VERY surprised that they DO get so much from yoga, since they've only taken six classes by the end of the book. But hey, some students are ripe for learning, I suppose. That said, it's clear the yoga part is just a trendy backdrop for girl-talk and pseudo-spirituality.
Fishman has a great ear for dialogue, though there are a few too many instances of, "I know, right?" But her writing is snappy and very conversational, super-duper easy to read (if you can let a few glaring proofreading errors slide).
I definitely didn't hate the book and read it in one day. Would be a fun read for a long flight (to NYC?).
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Balancing Acts came into my life at precisely the right time, I started yoga about 2 months ago and have been loving it. Balancing Acts was the perfect meld of yoga and the type of book I love to read, I just loved it.
I'm instantly attracted to books that are told in rotating perspective and Balancing Acts happens to explore these 4 women's journeys through each of their 4 voices. I loved all four of their voices with Bess just coming in slightly behind the other 3 women because of her initial motives to join the yoga class and not letting go of it as fast as I would have liked.
I liked how the story balances humor and serious matters, it was just a joy to read, with each woman going through her own journey. Specifically I loved Sabine's interactions with someone she called Subway Crush (I can relate), Naomi's occupation as a graphic designer (again, I can relate) and how she leans on the people in her life when she's used to taking care of herself and her son, and Charlie's journey from Wall Street to Yoga and the sweet cafe owner she finds on the way.
I also want to mention, that just because I've been doing yoga doesn't mean I think you have to be a yogi to enjoy the book. I will admit it's fun comparing it to my own yoga experience but I know I would have liked it if I would have read it without having any knowledge of yoga. There is really something for everyone to relate to here. Would definitely recommend it!!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The four women graduated from Boston University ten years ago. They knew one another other, but would not consider themselves close friends. Each had dreams. Charlie was going to own wall St; Naomi was going to be a famous photographer; Sabine was going to write great novels; and Bess was going to be a famous investigative reporter.
They meet at the ten year college reunion in Manhattan. Charlie left Wall St. to open with partners Julian and Felicity a yoga studio in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn; Sabine edits romance novels; and Bess writes for the celebrity gossip tabloid Pulse. None are happy though Charlie is probably the closest even with her studio in financial trouble she has boyfriend issues. She invites the three other grads to come to Brooklyn for yoga; they agree and over six weeks of an introductory class all four realize their lives are unbalanced; becoming true friends each tries to bring some balance to their lives.
Though sisterhood bonding is not a new concept, Balancing Acts is an entertaining tale as each of the four women face their issues over the six week yoga course and soon form a tight bond that helps each balance responsibilities and rekindle burned out dreams. A superb support cast enhances the audience's understanding of the quartet. Readers will root for each one of the leads to balance their respective acts as these likable females soon are there supporting one another.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 11, 2010
Balancing Acts is a story about women's friendship, it's about a group of women in their 30's at different stages of their lives. They are all single, looking for their dreams and passion that seems to have gotten lost along the way since they left college. They all meet up at a college reunion and forge a friendship of sorts and meet for a six week yoga class. The book mainly focuses on this six week time period in the women's lives.
I am a fan of women's fiction and books about women's friendship and was excited when I heard about this book. It sounded wonderful and I also liked the link to yoga and what a group of friends could learn as they take a yoga class together. I'm sorry to say that the story just didn't work for me. It was a bit too soap opera-ish and sappy for me and I just never cared much for any of the characters or connected to them. I think that this book is geared more towards the twenty-something and thirty-something single or just-married woman readers. It wasn't a book that worked for me. If you enjoy books about women's friendships with an added bonus of yoga classes and a bit of a soap opera style feel, you just may enjoy this book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 8, 2010
I didn't really like this book, I found myself rushing through it to get to the end. I did not connect with any of the characters at all and felt the whole story was rushed.
Balancing Acts is about four women who meet up again at a reunion and decide to rekindle friendships at a yoga studio, owned by one of the characters, Charlie. The book then settles on yoga and each woman's relationship with one another and others to whom they're connected.
I just didn't find the characters to be interesting and I found the story to be dull. I love a book about friendship, but this one did not do it for me.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2010
This book is really good. It's very easy to make a personal connection with the characters as they seem very much like people you already know. Although not a true "love story" per se, if you like Nicholas Sparks, you'll dig this too. Highly recommended.
Zoe Fishman's BALANCING ACTS was an inspirational, upbeat novel centering around the complicated lives of four people -- all women who, by the close of the novel, felt like friends. Fishman does a fantastic job of giving us enough information about each woman to allow us to relate to their predicaments without the story breaking into cliches or random information. I saw a bit of myself in each character, especially Sabine, and could definitely relate to their problems and attempts to heal what has become broken in their lives.
I've read enough bad dialogue in my life to recognize great conversation, and let me say this: Fishman's conversational skills are fantastic. We weren't dropped in and out of the ladies' chats, left to fill in all the details, but we also weren't privvy to long, meandering conversations that don't seem to go anywhere. I could clearly hear each woman speaking and appreciated the natural speech, complete with the occasional "um" and long pause. Because, you know, that's how we talk.
Though each had a reason for giving yoga a try and stepping beyond what had been comfortable, yoga is just a frame for the larger tale. If you know nothing about exercise -- or, like me, read this book with a cupcake in one hand -- fear not: the jargon is supplemental, easy to understand and not distracting.
With references to Facebook, texting and other hip conveniences, I worry that the novel will feel a bit dated in the not-so-distant future. But for the moment? Balancing Acts was a fresh, fun and engrossing look at friendship, breaking through emotional barriers and marching confidently into a beautiful future. Fans of women's fiction will find shades of themselves in Fishman's characters -- and might find themselves wanting to dash to a nearby yoga studio.