Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA, by Ellen Meister

What you notice first and foremost about Ellen Meister’s debut novel, Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA, is how humane she is as a writer. The women she writes about are real—they are not caricatures, they are not stereotypes. Instead they fall down, they embarrass themselves, they lose control. They lust, they fight, they envy, they are jealous. They are passionate, they are smart, they love. Basically, they are human.

And in that, we love them and we root for them. And when the book is at its end, we have a hard time letting them go.

Hard for me to say which of the three main characters is my favorite: is it the brilliant Maddie, who loses some of her self-esteem over the years when she believes that her marriage is broken beyond repair? Or is it quiet and unassuming Lisa, who seethes beneath the surface after a lifetime of taking care of her selfish mother? Or is it Ruth, who lost not only her husband but also the better part of herself after his stroke?

The truth is, they are all my favorites.

I cheered when Maddie realized that her marriage was only wounded from a bit of overuse, and when Lisa realized that she is her own best mother, and when Ruth regained the love of herself and all of the glories she has to offer the world. I cheered because I felt genuine affection for all of these women. I cherished their success and felt comforted by their friendship.

But don’t let the serious tone of this reader fool you. What you should know is that this book is also funny. Indeed, there are times when you will laugh out loud and shake your head in wonder at Meister’s impeccable sense of timing (not to mention her eye for physical humor).

In short, the book’s a gem. And no less a gem is the audio companion—Lisa Kudrow reads with an exceptional ear for character, comedy, and good storytelling. In fact, I can’t think of a better reader for the book. My favorite characterization of hers would have to be when she took on Ruth. The voice was exactly as I had heard Ruth in my head.

And so the bringing together of Meister’s words and Kudrow’s reading means some classic entertainment. You won’t want to miss out.

Buy the book, buy the audio. Let yourself be wooed and wowed.

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