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When It Happens to You: A Novel in Stories Hardcover – August 14, 2012

357 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, August 2012: Any lingering Brat Pack associations you may bring to When It Happens to You, Molly Ringwald’s first novel, will rapidly evaporate. Ringwald renders the families and lovers in her intertwined stories with a compassionate eye for the kind of heartbreak that upends reality, as well as a keen sense of the more subtle ways in which trust breaks and mends. Each of her eight stories explores the dynamics of fidelity and betrayal, from “The Harvest Moon”--which illuminates the night a mother realizes the fickle nature of her daughter, her husband, and her own body--to “Mea Culpa,” where we see the erosion of her husband’s desire, to the gut punch of a title story. --Mari Malcolm

From Bookforum

The "stories" of the novel ... concern the terrible breakup of a marriage after infidelity, and the fallout it creates for those around the marriage. It is lusher and straighter and lighter than Play It as It Lays and far less contrived and furious than Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? and maybe owes more to Sandra Cisneros than either. —Choire Sicha

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: It Books; First Edition edition (August 14, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780061809460
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061809460
  • ASIN: 0061809462
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (357 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #844,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Molly Ringwald began her film career at the age of thirteen with her Golden Globe-nominated performance in The Tempest. Her extensive film credits include The Pick-Up Artist, For Keeps, Fresh Horses, Betsy's Wedding, Billy Bob Thornton's short film Some People Call It a Sling Blade, and the now iconic coming-of-age movies Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles, and The Breakfast Club. On stage, Molly has starred in the Broadway production of Cabaret, the Tony-nominated Broadway production of Enchanted April, and the Bob Fosse musical Sweet Charity. Molly can currently be seen starring in the breakout hit The Secret Life of the American Teenager on ABC Family. She lives with her husband and three children in Los Angles, CA, and Getting the Pretty Back is her first book.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

106 of 110 people found the following review helpful By Sharon Isch TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"When It Happens to You" opens as a tale of a marriage that may be falling apart but doesn't know it yet, told in the form of eight short stories.

The first story tells of a family of three in California--Greta, Phillip and their young daughter Charlotte--that hopes to become a family of four, with the help of fertility experts. Next we'll delve into the relationship of Greta and her mother, who love to interfere in each others' lives but resent reciprocity (We learn Greta and Phillip have split, but Mom does not). Next, we go to the playground with Phillip and Charlotte where we meet her playmate Oliver--who insists he's really an Olivia--and his single mother, Miranda. The next story, wonderfully well told by our knows-the-territory-well-indeed author, introduces Peter Layton, a just-fired (drugs perchance?) longtime star of a popular children's TV show, who leaves New York to come to L.A. and start over and is instantly attracted to Greta. Then comes the title story which opens with...

"When it happens to you, you will be surprised. That thing they say about how you knew all the time but just weren't facing it? That might be the case, but nevertheless, there you will be. You will feel like you have been kicked in the stomach, that your insides have just separated to make room for something big.

"You may not cry at first. You may wonder why you don't cry, and you may even feel like there is something seriously wrong with you. You might look at yourself as though you were a character in a book or a movie and you might think to yourself 'Why isn't that woman crying? What's wrong with her?'"

Next we explore the new friendship between Betty, the lonely widow next door, and young Charlotte.
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77 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Helen Morris on August 15, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I absolutely loved these interconnected stories about a family and friends dealing with the complications of love and betrayal. The characters were incredibly realistic--it felt like I was peering over someone's shoulder, into their life (and heart). I especially liked the way each new story would switch perspectives and provide unexpected information and background on characters I'd already seen, moments of "Ohhhh, so THAT'S why." Despite the overall theme of betrayal--a husband to his wife, a mother to her child, a man to himself--I found the stories actually very uplifting, and I felt like there was a kind of forgiveness at play. But as with anything realistic, it's complicated, not an easy "Everything is okay now." A beautiful, moving, and incredibly compelling read.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Dixie Chick on August 22, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I heard Molly Ringwald interviewed on NPR and was mildly interested in the book. But, as soon as I got my Kindle sample, I was hooked.

The format of this novel is refreshing - a series of intertwined short stories - and the reader is left not only enjoying the read but looking for the thread (a la Where's Waldo) at the same time. It's different and it works.

The characters draw the reader in - especially Greta - and allow us to understand what they are experiencing.

The story is realistic but far from boring.

I enjoyed every moment and look for more good works from Molly Ringwald.
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54 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Booklover on September 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book because of all the glowing reviews on Amazon but after reading it, I can't agree. So here is an alternative point of view. The New York Times review characterized the book as "workshop fiction" and I have to agree. I thought Ms Ringwald spent too much time on the internal landscape of her characters, telling us who they were instead of allowing the action to show us who they were. There wasn't much tension in any of the stories, no "oh my god, what is this character going to do next?" I understand literary fiction focuses more on character rather than plot, but there still needs to be conflict for readers to stay engaged. I found there was a trying-too-hard quality to the writing that got a little tiresome at points. And also no humor or irony in the stories which made the stories feel heavy and oppressive at times. On the positive, I liked the structure, the way the stories intertwined and the subject matter. I just wished that each story was better written.

Lastly, I found a glaring error in the book. Ms. Ringwald essentially writes that her major character goes to an Ivy League school, Stanford. Stanford (while an excellent school) is NOT an Ivy League school. Anyone who attended one of the eight Ivy League schools on the east coast, or Stanford or even looked it up on Wikipedia would know that. I'm surprised this error was not caught by the numerous people who must have read earlier drafts prior to publication. Is this a huge deal? Probably not, but anything (like an error such as this) that takes the reader out of the narrative is not great.

I can't help but think if this book had been written by a non celebrity it would be receiving only a fraction of the attention it's getting now.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Book Person on August 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Who knew? Molly Ringwald, who can certainly act, can also certainly write very fine literary fiction. Each of these interconnecting stories uncover a successively more revealing layer of a family drifting apart, crashing, estranged, and tentatively exploring second chances. This book was a thirst-quencher for those of us who try to make sense of the world by examining human interaction in fiction. It's totally character-driven; and these characters feel very real.
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