Hope Lyndhurst-Steele is turning 50 and she’s freaking out. Her life is so perfect that it’s like a happy Lifetime movie; the hip magazine job, marvelous husband, loving son, and lots of friends, and yet, she’s freaking out. As is typical in life, just when everything is perfect, life turns to crap. Hope loses her job and her spiral into cloying self-pity strains her marriage. Her son decides that she is, in fact, a pain in the butt and her mom has announced that she'll be shuffling off this mortal coil soon. The stress gets to be a bit much so Hope takes off on a solitary weekend in Paris, and succeeds in jump-starting her libido. When she returns home, planning to jump start something/someone else, her husband surprises her with the old, “Welcome home honey, I’m leaving” bit. When life goes to crap, it really goes to crap…
Fifty is Not a Four-Letter Word by Linda Kelsey shows us how one middle aged, depressed, self-absorbed woman can finally begin to grow up a bit. The novel was both funny and sad. It begins as almost an ode to feminist think, where high-powered career women aspire to “have-it-all” without acknowledging the effect their choices can have on those around them. It was interesting to see how Hope’s character came to understand better the nuances of all those around her, and to lose her dogged determination to be defined by her career and professional accomplishments rather than any personal beliefs, actions and attitudes.
I enjoyed the book quite a bit, but not the way I thought I would. I had thought I would empathize with Hope, I turned 50 a couple of years ago, but it never bothered me. Fifty wasn’t a four-letter word for me and based on the title, (which I love) I expected a story where the character might be a bit like me. And that was pretty much the only thing I shared with the book; that I agreed with the title! Hope and I had absolutely nothing in common. But I sort of liked her anyway. I’m the polar opposite of her, and I’ve always suspected there was something wrong with my girl DNA since I don’t like the shopping, parties, lunches, etc. life that the women in the book seem to be so absorbed in;---but I sort of liked her anyway. My kids don’t seem to disregard me, I’ve never had a high-powered career, I couldn’t find a caterer or a decorator if my life depended on it;---but I sort of liked her anyway. And I kind of think that might just be a sign of a successful story, when you really can’t fathom what it would be like to be the protagonist, but you still sort of like them.