Tuesday, November 7, 2023

BOOK REVIEW: The Beautiful Misfits by Susan Reinhardt

I stepped into the current day to read another contemporary novel, The Beautiful Misfits by Susan Reinhardt. This gripping story drops you into a mother’s worst nightmare: a child’s drug addiction.

Josette Nickels is one of those women who seem to have it all. She is an Emmy-winning news anchor for an Atlanta station and has a devoted following. But she also has a 23-year-old son who is addicted to drugs, an unsupportive husband, and a three-year-old daughter with Down Syndrome. One night, on-air, she learns that a friend of her son has died of a drug overdose. While reporting on the story, she has a breakdown and commits the unpardonable TV sin of losing control.

Josette’s life falls apart. She ends up in Asheville with her daughter, trying to hold it together while working as a cosmetics salesperson at a department store. Her now ex-husband harasses her for money. (He quit his job as a dentist to become an artist. This worked fine while Josette was a highly paid news anchor, but now that she’s broke, she thinks he should suck it up and get a job.) Her mother is a narcissist. Her coworkers are a nightmare. She hates pushing overpriced cosmetics. She gains 50 pounds on a fast-food diet. She’s an alcoholic.

And she has no idea, day-to-day, if her son is using or not. Or if he is dead or alive.

The novel does a superb job of showing the all-consuming worry, guilt, and grief associated with being the parent of an addict. No matter what else is going on in her life, her son Finley is never out of her thoughts 

The novel carries the reader along with Josette on her journey. Alongside the wrenching addiction story there is an entertaining send-up of the department store cosmetics industry. (You’ll steer clear of those free samples from now on!)

While ultimately redemptive, the story drives home the crisis of the substance abuse epidemic.

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