Book Title and Author: The Goddesses by Swan Huntley
Publication date and Publisher: July 25, 2017 by Doubleday Books
Genre: Fiction, Suspense
Pages: 320 pages (eBook)
Buy on Amazon.com
Date Read: July 11, 2017 (ARC-Edelweiss)
The Descendants meets Single White Female in this captivating novel about a woman who moves her family to Hawaii, only to find herself wrapped up in a dangerous friendship, from the celebrated author of We Could Be Beautiful.
When Nancy and her family arrive in Kona, Hawaii, they are desperate for a fresh start. Nancy’s husband has cheated on her; they sleep in separate bedrooms and their twin sons have been acting out, setting off illegal fireworks. But Hawaii is paradise: they plant an orange tree in the yard; they share a bed once again and Nancy resolves to make a happy life for herself. She starts taking a yoga class and there she meets Ana, the charismatic teacher. Ana has short, black hair, a warm smile, and a hard-won wisdom that resonates deeply within Nancy. They are soon spending all their time together, sharing dinners, relaxing in Ana’s hot tub, driving around Kona in the cute little car Ana helps Nancy buy. As Nancy grows closer and closer to Ana skipping family dinners and leaving the twins to their own devices she feels a happiness and understanding unlike anything she’s ever experienced, and she knows that she will do anything Ana asks of her.
A mesmerizing story of friendship and manipulation set against the idyllic tropical world of the Big Island, The Goddesses is a stunning psychological novel by one of our most exciting young writers.
I had really high hopes for The Goddesses based on the synopsis. However, it was an utter let down of monumental proportions. Let’s start with the premise: Nancy and Chuck, along with their twin teenage sons Jed and Cam, have moved to beautiful Hawaii to start afresh after Chuck’s affair and his heavy drinking. This seems like a great thing with the beautiful island of Kona as the backdrop and a new start for the family.
It would be except Nancy soon meets Ana (pronounced On-a) on her new journey to self-discovery. Initially, their friendship is relatively harmless: helping the homeless by handing out sandwiches and hanging out in the jacuzzi talking about their problems. Then it got bizarre…maybe it was when Nancy suddenly became Nan! Oh yes, the yin to Ana’s yang. And Ana calling Nan her “soulmate”. That should have sent Nan running, but instead, it set the stage for their toxic relationship.
No longer was Nancy a wife trying to fix her marriage or even a responsible mother taking care of her kids. No, she was Nan the mother who let her boys sit around smoking pot and the mother who all but ignores their arson attempts around town that keep getting the cops involved. Nan also completely ignores Chuck, and he starts drinking heavily again. Then Nan begins to lie to her family, spend her nights with Ana, lets Ana move into her house and her bedroom while poor Chuck has to live in the guest cottage, and commits numerous illegal acts without any consequences at all! But wait, Ana is her new best friend and she is suffering and in need! Yes, I know I’m being a bit obscure about Ana’s suffering but if I go into detail about why Ana needs Nan so much, it will almost be the entire plot of the book since as soon as it was introduced in the story, I knew what was coming and rolled my eyes at Nan for falling for Ana’s con job. But back to Nan…of course, she is going to completely abandon her husband and teenage sons for Ana. That’s what best friends do, right? Seriously, this entire scenario between Nan and Ana was my biggest problem with the book, and why I could not enjoy it like I wanted to. It was not so much the amazingly terrible things Ana talks Nan into doing toward the end, because yes, they are terrible. It was the 40-ish-year-old woman choosing her new bestie over her family every single time!
Yet, that is in part what this story is about: a middle age woman coming of age again. Trying to find where she fits into her own life after her husband’s betrayal and her boys are almost grown men. Ana is abhorrent and Nan is unlikeable, but I had to remind myself that in Nan’s unnatural attachment to Ana she was showing her hurt to her husband betraying her in the worst possible way and her insecurities at having children who really didn’t need her anymore. So, no, she may be a terrible wife and an awful mother, but it was realistic for her to want a friend. Too bad she met someone set out to use her and try to destroy her, but I’m not going to go into detail here either about how Ana attempts to do this or why. To be honest, even I haven’t figured out the why unless Ana was just a sociopath. It was never explained in the book and the ending just sort of, well ended without tying anything up, which was another disappointment since the end was full of drama (the only part that was!) but nothing was ever explained and the reader is left either guessing or shaking their head in bewilderment. I did a mixture of both.
Still, it was a not very well thought out plot, the pacing was ridiculously slow until the last 30% of the book, which was when I actually wanted to keep reading it, and the characters were pretty boring, again up until the end. It was as if towards the end Huntley got into a groove and became excited about her plot and characters! I wanted to join Chuck for a drink while reading it; I may have needed the drinks more than he did! The only redeeming parts of this book, in my opinion, is Huntley’s admirable prose and the writing skill she shows on and off in spurts throughout the book, which is one of the only things that kept me reading, well that and the lush Hawaiian background. I have a feeling that Huntley is a good writer, but this book just did not work out the way she quite intended. There is nothing suspenseful about the book since the plot could be figured out about 2 seconds after meeting Ana-Single White Female this is not although if it did have that kind of suspense and intensity this would have been a much better book!! I honestly cannot recommend this book even though I hate to ever give that opinion about a book. Unfortunately, this was just a 2.5 Star read for me.
**Thank you Edelweiss, Doubleday, and Swan Huntley for the ARC copy of this book in exchange for my fair and unbiased review.**