Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Slot Machine At My Midlife Crisis

Many women find themselves at a crossroads when the reach their middle forties. Some become resistless and need a change of scenery. Others find comfort in the arms of another man or just plain up and leave to find themselves and where they feel they belong. Being married after dating someone for many years you would think you know that person, their habits and their wants. Some women lose themselves when they get married and forget who they are, their true personalities blur and they lose sight of who they really are. Some call it identity crisis, others identity misplaced and some just plain unhappy with their lives and change is definitely in the air.

Getting married at later age some women think they have finally found happiness and will adapt to married life after waiting so long. Wendy dated her new husband Roger for seven years, and finds marriage to be anything but what she expected. Roger’s career is in Houston and Wendy agrees to leave, sell her condo and move. Marriage is difficult enough at the beginning each partner having to really learn to adapt the habits, idiosyncrasies of the other and much more. Life was not what she expected as her new husband began spending more time at work than with her.

Written in the first person so that you hear the main character’s voice, inner thoughts and feelings author Irene Woodbury allows the reader to experience the events first hand along with Wendy Sinclair. Writing in the first person is difficult and for a debut novel the author took on a really difficult task. However, it does help the reader identify better with the main character and experience some of what she is going through along with her.

Just how can a slot machine eat away your midlife crisis? Well it can certainly eat away your money, your changes and your bank account if you let it. No will power you might say once you start pulling down that lever and hearing the sound of the bells if you win. But, life does not work that way and Wendy’s story will definitely make the reader pause for thought and think about what really matters.

Living in a new place is one thing but having to deal with the rich and snobby is another. Being down to earth myself I would not want to deal with anyone that judges me by how I dress, where I shop or whose approval I need to be a part of their clique or group. Wendy decided to spend five days in Vegas with her friend Paula whose behavior was anything but normal. Into finding a different man for each night, creating a fight between a potential bride and groom and blaming it on him, their stay together was anything but wild and the bruises quite apparent. But, Paula is very into Paula and never admits making mistakes, caring about others or worrying about the end result of her actions. Wendy begins feeling guilty that she left Roger and is about to return home but does not. Calling him and justifying in her own mind that she needs more freedom and time to explore Vegas and have some fun she creates a definite rift between herself and her new husband that might not be able to be repaired. Most of the first chapters deal with the events that many see in Vegas, the gambling the stores and the sights that both Paula and Wendy relate to the reader. When Paula leaves the author continues with more of the Vegas scene and the reader is wondering whether it will lead back to the original story of Roger and Wendy and finding her true self. But, two weeks turn into several months and both Roger and the reader wonder whether Wendy will grow up and find her way back to Roger or just leave. Men come on to her and she has some heavy choices to make. Roger is at home and might not wait forever. Wendy wants to create a new life for herself and a new career. What will the end result be? If Wendy really looked deep within herself she was becoming more like Paula. Not really concerned about Roger or his feelings she decides to explore her own options leaving him to wonder what exactly she was going to do and what their future, if they have one might be.

Then, something happens and she begins to realize that a change needs to be made. Meeting several men, deciding how to deal with her attraction to one and finding a job were now her top priorities. Landing a design job for a major company Wendy becomes more embroiled in her life in Vegas and less apt to return to the dutiful wife Roger would like. Working double time on his new project he even offers to quit his job and return them both to LA to their former lives. But, Wendy does not see past what she wants and you begin to understand her attitude and actions when they each rehash their pasts and their relationships with their parents, hers being anything but ideal. She even relates to the reader how she felt ignored by them both, did not get along with her own brother and her father, like Roger worked all the time. Maybe, this was a hint that she did not want the same kind of marriage as her mother but her mother was not that attentive to her either.

The author brings to light many issues that others face today. Some women would give anything to join Wendy and Paula on their roller coaster ride in life. Others might consider a girl’s weekend or week and return home to their normal lives. Wendy’s situation is somewhat extreme and maybe after being with Roger for seven years the novelty wore off when the reality set in after they got married. I am not sure that it is her identity that was taken from her when she married Roger but her need for attention, to be the most important person in a conversation and relationship and her lack of understanding as to what goes into a good marriage.

Roger invites Wendy to a gala ball and she promises to attend except her second career or temporary job as an Ann Margaret impersonator interferes. However, when she sees Roger’s picture with another woman in the paper she becomes irate. Why? All of a sudden she is jealous and realizes she might lose him. Roger takes the ultimate step and goes to Vegas to confront Wendy and the rest you have to read for yourself as the arguments are on both sides and the yelling and screaming continues as Wendy refuses to see the other side of the coin and can’t understand why he is so angry. Not really focused on her marriage and Roger coming there because Paula said she went away with another man, this marriage and their relationship should probably end.  What does happen between them you will have to learn for yourself and which one you agree with you decide.

The time span is much longer than one month and the characters after a while do make you angry. There are times I want to shake Wendy and tell her to grow up. She seems to be reacting to losing her job and having to move to a place she feels uncomfortable in. Never really trying to assimilate in her new environment and knowing that Roger had his new job and had to complete his project, you understand her frustrations about feeling alone and not wanting to be cast as stilted figure who has to follow the rules of those in her community. But, up and leaving does not sound like the right solution. It is more like escaping reality and not facing the problems.

As the story progresses Wendy becomes more involved in her many different jobs, meets a man named Kent and becomes enrages when another women sets her designs on Roger. One funeral for a friend would bring things into a different light for both Wendy and Roger. Will they ever remain in the same state or place at the same time? Where will her job take her next and will she ever settle down or is Roger really not the right man for her? The ending will surprise the reader but will it be Wendy’s final ending to what she wants in life.

Midlife crisis or married to the wrong man from the start. Seven-year relationship and a fast marriage that turned into a two-year separation. End result: What stays in Vegas and happens there stays there and I won’t divulge the ending. Humorous, sad, interesting, enlightening and quite different to say the least. Wendy Sinclair: What is in store for her next? Who knows? Author Irene Woodbury gives women much pause for thought as Wendy Sinclair spends her time in Sin City deciding which slot to play and which bet to make in life. Winner or Loser: You decide.
The book is fast paced, funny and definitely a quick read. This book gets Four and One Half Stars.

Fran Lewis: reviewer

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