By the Book @ Rogers Memorial Library

The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs, by Matthew Dicks

JacketCaroline Jacobs has a pretty good life. A husband she loves, a teenage daughter who’s a handful, though clearly smart and relatively well-adjusted, a nice house, and a rewarding hobby. She never complains, is always ready to lend a helping hand, and is the first person to say yes when anyone needs her.

So why exactly does she suddenly decide to tell the PTO president to “F#@%K Off” at their monthly meeting?

It turns out that something has been festering for a long time in Caroline Jacobs’ soul…and she can no longer keep it contained.

One long ago day in her childhood, her best friend, her only friend, took everything away from her with one heartless act. Caroline becomes convinced that if she can finally stand up to the girl that she hasn’t seen in twenty years, she’ll be able to regain control of a life that’s been ruled ever since by everyone but herself. So with a reluctant daughter in tow, Caroline returns to her hometown, only to discover what most of us already know: you can never go home again.

Her best-frenemy behaves like they just lost touch, her mother’s dating a blind guy named Spartacus, her husband has no idea where she is, and there’s a guy having a funeral for his cockatoo in her mom’s backyard, and look — her daughter is officiating the service!

Matthew Dicks‘ delightful novel, The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs, is hilarious and full of the kind of wisdom that I wish had been more readily available when the girls didn’t want to sit with me at lunch back in grade school.

Yes, this is a novel about a woman regaining her self esteem after being bullied. But she’s also confronting an all-around soul-crushing childhood, filled with much more heartache than the one moment that she’s chosen to focus on. Caroline has to face more demons from her past before she’s able to look to the future with fresh, wide-open eyes, unclouded by a lifetime of guilt and resentment. This is also a novel about the way we all see ourselves in relation to the people around us — how we lose sight of the impact we have on our loved ones, and how much tiny moments that we consider to be nothing special can impact someone else.

Dicks manages to convey some hard truths with a soft hand. Caroline gets the confrontation that she always thought she wanted, but it doesn’t solve all her problems. Dicks reminds readers that we are shaped by our relationships and experiences, but we aren’t defined by them. Caroline must take responsibility for who she is and be her own catalyst for changing what she doesn’t like. If she wants a more equal relationship with her husband, she has to make it happen. If she wants her daughter to open up to her, Caroline has to be willing to meet her halfway.

I finished this charming tale in a single night, because I was enjoying myself too much to put it down. Dicks walks that always tricky tightrope between razor-sharp humor and honest moments of love and grief, striking a balance that places Perfect Comeback… a cut above the average. He provides laughs just when they’re needed, but he also never lets the jokes get too ridiculous. His characters bubble over with witty retorts and snappy dialogue but I’ve known plenty of people who really talk like this. This is a perfect book for anyone who’d like a light read that leaves them thinking, and maybe reevaluating the mark they’re leaving on the world.


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