“The Spectacular” by Zoe Whittall (Ballantine)
Zoe Whittall’s “The Spectacular” follows three generations of women as they navigate love, life, and motherhood.
It’s 1997 and Missy is a 22-year-old rock star who struggles with drug addiction. She is determined to party like the male members of her band, but she can think of nothing worse than getting pregnant while on tour —and she’ll do anything she can to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Carola is the mother who abandoned a young Missy to live at a yoga center, where she ends up embroiled in a sex scandal. And Ruth is Missy’s Turkish grandmother who wants nothing more than for Missy to become a mother and for her estranged daughter and granddaughter to reconcile.
The second half of the book jumps to 2013. Now divorced and aching for a child, we follow Missy as she attempts to get pregnant and find love, all while working to repair her relationship with Carola.
“The Spectacular” is an homage to womanhood, motherhood, sexuality and queerness as it chronicles the lives of three ferociously strong protagonists who are wildly different from one another. The first half is chock-full of action, drama, energy, and excitement. The characters are beautifully flawed and so alive as they all scramble through life searching for happiness.
In the second half, that energy dissipates a bit. Missy is older, no longer on tour, and is now desperate to have a baby, while at the same time working to repair her relationship with her own mother. Her navigation of love and fertility in her late 30s is an important story, but the shift feels a bit abrupt. Nevertheless, once you settle in to the time jump, it becomes a compelling exploration of what happens when we grow older and are still desperately searching for what we want.
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