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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hail hail the generation gap!
This book is not only marvelously perceptive, it's hilarious. The author's wit, spare style of prose, and laconic, ironic delivery make it a pleasure that I devoured in one sitting. Three generations of women--a displaced grandmother, a harried and rejected divorcee of a mother, and a daughter fumbling her way through adolescence, make for a powerful package with which...
Published on January 6, 2011 by Carol Dawson

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Quick read. Abrupt ending.
"Hell was three generations of women living under the same roof."

Joanie "Roxanne" Pilcher is a divorcee who has found out that her ex is going to be a daddy with the young woman he is living with and her new boss, Zoe, thinks she is a charity case. From Joanie: "What was worst of all to Joanie was that Zoe hadn't seen anything special in her. She had...
Published on March 29, 2011 by eclecticreviewer


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hail hail the generation gap!, January 6, 2011
This book is not only marvelously perceptive, it's hilarious. The author's wit, spare style of prose, and laconic, ironic delivery make it a pleasure that I devoured in one sitting. Three generations of women--a displaced grandmother, a harried and rejected divorcee of a mother, and a daughter fumbling her way through adolescence, make for a powerful package with which every reader out there, male or female, will readily identify. Ouch!--so close to home that we're actually sitting in this family home, watching these very funny and poignant proceedings occur, as the women grapple with life's demands and their own expectations, hopes, dreads, and ultimately support of one another. I highly recommend it!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't Put it Down, January 18, 2011
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I started reading this on a Saturday and before I knew it, I had frittered the day away finishing it. What I really love about this book is that Pennebaker really knows how each of the three generations of women think. We've all been or are going to be each of these women in some way and Pennebaker seems to know that. The voice of each character is incredibly authentic and highlights how I think many women of those ages really feel. I loved the honest family dynamics between the three women, which makes you cringe if you lived any of it because it is so real.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insight into all generations, February 8, 2011
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momofsix (east coast USA) - See all my reviews
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I really enjoyed this book. I'm the middle of the three generations profiled in this book, more or less (though I don't have teenagers - yet) and I really enjoyed remembering what it was like to be an awkward adolescent, knowing what it's like to be someone my age, and looking ahead to the years that lie ahead. There was plenty of poignancy and sadness, but also dry wit and humor. The characterization was simply spot on, too. As a writer myself, I was in awe of the craft that went into making these characters so vivid and real. I know it's not at all easy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars EMPATHY: STEPPING STONE TO CONNECTING, March 16, 2011
Three female members of a family at different stages of their lives are trying to coexist.

Sandwiched between her seventy-six-year-old mother, Ivy, and her fifteen-year-old daughter, Caroline, Joanie Pilcher (approaching fifty) feels overwhelmed at times, emotionally bankrupt, and definitely misunderstood. She is so "done" with men that she has vowed never to have sex again. Caroline is at a point of fearing that she will never find anyone to love her, much less to have sex with her. And Ivy is flailing about, trying to discover who she is in this new life in which she has no real place of her own, and in her attempt to define who she is, she makes some risky choices.

In the voices of each female, we come to understand their dilemmas as we peek inside each one in turn; and then we have the opportunity to root for each of them as this story unfolds to yield a very satisfying meeting of the minds.

Along the way, we meet the women in Joanie's support group; Caroline's only friend Sondra; and observe Ivy's somewhat unusual friendship with a waitress named Lupe.

We also see glimpses of the young woman B. J., whom Joanie's ex-husband is now planning to marry. She is at an entirely different place in her life, but each character has a chance to see her at a time of crisis, and in this moment, Ivy and Caroline each see a side of Joanie they had never acknowledged.

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough is a story that can resonate with any woman who has ever been a mother, a daughter, or a displaced elderly person, and reminds us that empathy is the stepping stone to connecting with those we love.

Five stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An exercise in perspectives. Brava!, January 10, 2011
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Based on her other writing, I knew I could count on Pennebaker for a respite from and a laugh about real life. I've had a hard time reading lately because I'm so distracted with family medical dramas and eldercare pressures, so if a book can hold MY attention, that's saying something.

Pennebaker's book does NOT disappoint.

It's funny and aggravating at the same time, as three generations of women live in the same house (not by choice) and muddle the best they can through their individual and collective dramas.

An exercise in perspectives -- generational, mother-daughter, and otherwise -- Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough reveals the grace and humor, frustration and (yes) anger, that consumes us ... especially at times of big transitions.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough, March 23, 2011
Joanie Pilcher is about to turn fifty and has recently been left by her husband. If that's not enough to make her feel overwhelmed, her eighty year old mother is also living with her and her sullen teenage daughter. When Joanie gets a call from her ex-husband letting her know he's gotten his new twenty-nine year old girlfriend pregnant, Joanie begins to fall off the precipice of good mental health. Trapped in an ad-exec job she hates and a divorce support group that can sometimes be judgemental, Joanie is slowly losing it. Ivy, Joanie's mother, is also deteriorating. Though she used to live on her own, the financial crash has eaten up her savings, forcing her into her daughter's home, where she doesn't feel welcomed or appreciated. Meanwhile, the teenage Caroline fears she has some sort of multiple personality disorder because she can't understand why she's so angry with everyone in her life except the handsome and oblivious Henry. As the three women orbit each other, they come to realize that life isn't filled with the happiness they once expected to find, and must learn to navigate not only the waters of their tenuous relationships, but the wider waters of a life that fluctuates wildly from day to day. Infused with an offbeat and potent humor, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough is the story of three women of three very different generations coming to terms with each other and with the wider world around them

One of the things I liked best about this story was the way Pennebaker was able to write from each woman's perspective so convincingly. Joanie, a baby boomer, is frustrated with her life and struggles with it due to her bitter attitude. She struggles because she believes that life should and could be so much more. She expects it and demands it, and because of all the overwhelming things that are happening in her professional and personal life, she feels as though she's slowly sinking into a place where she might not be able to cope with it anymore. Her relationship with Ivy, her mother, is filled with anger. Part of that anger stems from knowing that she was not the favorite child, and part because, even though she has bailed her mother out, Ivy still finds many things to criticize Joanie about. It's an issue a lot of women face. Becoming the mother to your mother can be not only confusing, but also has an odd way of building up resentment and anger. Ivy does a lot to add fuel to Joanie's fire because of her puritanical belief system and her constant and unhelpful interjections. On the opposite side, her relationship with her daughter is difficult because she really does struggle to be a good and compassionate mother but can't help but to put all kinds of emotional pressure on her. She doesn't understand why her daughter is so angry and resentful when, try as she might, she just wants to connect. It was easy to see that Joanie's relationship with her daughter was the mirror reflection of the relationship she had with her mother, with Caroline treating her much the same as she treated her mother.

To be honest, though I did like her, I found Ivy to be a little too meddlesome and inflexible. She is of the generation that believes the women of her daughter and granddaughter's generation expect too much for themselves and that's why they're never satisfied. They eagerly seek happiness only to end up disappointed. She speaks at length about her own relationship with her deceased husband and how there was little to no communication or emotional connection. Ivy doesn't understand why her daughter is so angry and depressed, or why her granddaughter is so full of angst. She is so far removed from any forms of society that she's sometimes misled in her beliefs by the things she reads on the Internet and the age old opinions that she stubbornly holds on to. In the latter half of the story, Ivy comes to realize that she too may be depressed and she begins to act out in some alarming ways. Her relationship with her son, the favorite, is a source of painful disappointment to her, and she, at times, mercilessly antagonizes both her daughter and granddaughter. While I could readily sympathize with Ivy, she sometimes maddened me with her strange ideas and proclamations and endless insensitive questions.

Caroline was the person I most identified with, which is strange for me because usually I don't sync all that well with YA characters. Caroline is frustrated by the role she's forced to play in her parents' drama. She's constantly filled with anger because she feels that the adults around her are trying to validate their feelings through her and that everyone expects something from her. She's in love with a boy who is only using her for her intellectual prowess and who doesn't know how she feels about him. Caroline also is basically friendless and sort of a social outcast. She comes into skirmishes with almost everyone around her, a fact which saddens and confuses her. She doesn't think she's a mean person, so why is she acting this way all the time? Looking deeper into the book, I think I identified with Caroline because I've been Caroline. There's a tremendous pressure and weight on her, and her need for understanding herself and her parents is something she's not equipped for. Her confusion and anger were so real for me, her unhappiness so palpable. Out of the three women, she's the one who seemed the most confused and troubled, and because she was so young, she had no wellspring from which to draw comfort.

Though I've made this book sound rather dour and serious, there were a lot of laugh out loud moments and a sharp humor to the ways in which the women dealt with each other. I found the book to be surprisingly amusing and realistic in a way I hadn't expected, and although the ending was a bit ambiguous, I could see that each woman was on the road to healing by the conclusion of the book. The issues that manifest themselves were not light and frothy, but something about the way they were portrayed enabled me to see them for who they were, and also let me get a glimpse of the redemption that they were on the road to finding. This is the type of book I think a lot of women will relate to for a host of reasons. I think each reader will have a very different reaction to the three women and will find something about each of them to admire, despite their emotional upheavals. A very worthy read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book about Everywoman, March 10, 2011
Before I picked up Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough, I had read several reviews--all glowing--and even gone to a reading the author did at our local book store. So I was prepared for the laugh out loud humor of the book, my laughs happening so often that my stepmother-- whom I was visiting when I read it-- said "Will you stop hoarding all that and start reading it out loud to me?" What I wasn't prepared for was how after the humor invited me in, the book would fasten me hard into the shoes of the three women and create in me tremendous empathy. Empathy for the characters and for myself and my own women friends. For all of us. Because ultimately, Women on the Verge isn't about having a good laugh, though that is valuable relief. It's about this damn hard business of living, hard at every stage of life, from the confusion and angst of teenage years to the confusion and anxiety of mid life to the confusion and loneliness of old age. And the only way we can get through it with decency and grace is to have empathy for one another. To realize no one has it easy.
Ruth Pennebaker manages to capture universal qualities of each age in the three main characters while also making them distinct individuals. Caroline, the fifteen year old, has the almost stereotypical disgust for her mother, the unrequited crush, the fierce attachment to her cell phone and a friendship that's more the result of misery loving company than common interests. Joanie, Caroline's mother, is turning fifty and has lost her husband to wanderlust that took him into bed with a much younger woman who has somehow found herself pregnant. Joanie's widowed mother Ivy has moved in with her daughter and granddaughter out of financial necessity, as the recession decimated her retirement account. When the book begins, her West Texas roots dictate that she is rigid, racist and judgmental. We think we have these women pegged.
Yet as the book progresses, their characters unfold, revealing complexities, contradictions, and surprises that make the book vibrate. The response of all three women to a crisis at the book's end reveals their humanity, a humanity that I would not have anticipated. And why didn't I, I found myself asking at the end? Why had I underestimated these women?
All this happens under Pennebaker's masterful hand, because the book ever so subtly reveals our own predilections to judge and categorize. That is its transcendent achievement: it challenges us to open the door and welcome the possibility that any person is more than what they appear. Imagine if we all broke the ice with some good sharp humor and let the laughter be only the beginning of a true introduction.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Book for Every Woman!!, March 16, 2011
Joanie and Richard are divorced and Joanie has taken a life-long vow to celibacy! Richard is living with, BJ, a girl half is age who is now pregnant and they are getting married. Joanie, almost fifty-years-old is in a divorcee support group and only talks to her best friend Mary Margaret outside the group.

Fifteen-year-old daughter, Caroline, is a secretive, manipulative, unhappy teenager whose best friend, Sondra, just introduced her to marijuana.

Ivy, Joanie's mother, lives with her and Caroline and they don't get along well. Joanie is working full-time again after being an at-home Mom for years and Ivy under minds Joanie at every turn.

Joanie is so full of anger at Richard, fed up with listening to her mother that she freaked out one night during dinner after arguing with Ivy and smashes both their dinner plates on the kitchen floor then immediately retreats to her bedroom. That same night, Ivy types an email to David, her son and Joanie's brother, telling him she's scared and had to lock herself in her bedroom because his sister was throwing plates and she was afraid of being attacked!! The next day, David, phones Joanie to question her about what she is doing their almost eighty-year-old mother! Ivy can be acerbic but sweetly and subtly so.

Three women living under one roof isn't a great idea, at least not for these three strong headed women. However, given their problems, the amount of fights and arguments they have, when it comes right down to it, they love each other immensely. This was a light-hearted, laugh-a-minute book that every woman should read. I'm sure you'll find a little bit of yourself in one of these adorable characters!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Entertaining Look At Life's Transistions, June 5, 2011
By 
Sandra Kirkland (High Point, North Carolina United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Joanie may be having a nervous breakdown. She deserves a nervous breakdown. About to turn fifty, everything has changed. Her husband, Richard, has moved out, saying he doesn't want any commitments, and then instantly shows up with a new girlfriend barely out of her teens. And by the way, said girlfriend is pregnant and wants to get married.

Joanie has gotten a job in an ad agency; she managed to land it after three weeks of looking and years at home. BUT, she works with an office full of Gen X and Gen Y coworkers who look at her as if it is a miracle she manages to make it out of her creaky rocking chair each day. She doesn't like the job, but needs it.

Her mom, Ivy, has moved in due to the recession and losing her life savings. Far from being a help, she still feels it is her job to criticize every move Joanie makes, and even insists on calling her Roxanne, a name Joanie ditched as soon as she possibly could. Ivy spends hours on the Internet and has a fresh disaster to inform Joanie about every day.

Then there is Caroline. Caroline, a typical fifteen year old, which means she ignores Joanie when she can and treats her to sullenness and sarcasm when she can't. Joanie sees underneath the angst to the girl trying to learn how to become a woman and crushed by her father's betrayals.

Ruth Pennebaker lovingly narrates the life of many middle-aged women. Despite the woes, readers will laugh out loud at her portrayals, especially mothers of teenage daughters. The book is optimistic and entertaining and recommended for all readers interested in how to manage life transitions.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fun read!, February 23, 2011
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I'm a fan of Ruth Pennebaker's dry wit and love her blog, so I was anxious to read this multi-generational story. It didn't disappoint!

Pennebaker tackles the lives of three generations of women living unexpectedly under one roof (imagine!) with humor and tenderness. I especially loved the teenager, Caroline, and was impressed with the author's portrayal of this angst-y girl.

While the characters seem to be very distant from one another, each wallowing in her own troubles, they just want to be loved and accepted for who they are - no matter their age. If you're a mom or a daughter, you'll absolutely relate to the relationships between these three women. Give yourself the gift of a few hours of down-time and immerse yourself in this book. You'll be glad you did.
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Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough
Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakthrough by Ruth Pennebaker (Paperback - January 4, 2011)
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