All You Could Ask For by Mike Greenberg

By Ekta R. Garg

September 4, 2013

Rated: Borrow it

Three women in different life stages handle their challenges in unique ways.  When all three of them—strangers to one another at the beginning of the book—receive a diagnosis of breast cancer, they face the pronouncement with a renewed appreciation for what is important to each of them.  Debut novelist Mike Greenberg of ESPN’s “Mike and Mike in the Morning” gives readers this good first book that contains a slightly hard edge.

The book alternates between three points of view all told in first person.  Brooke believes she is living her ideal situation.  Mother to twins and wife of a loving, hardworking man, Brooke balances her roles as wife, mother, and friend with ease.  In planning for her husband, Scott’s, fortieth birthday, Brooke has decided to go all out and do something radical for his present.

Samantha discovers a devastating secret about her husband on their honeymoon.  It leaves her wondering whether she really understood herself and her view of life or whether she compromised because of societal expectations.  Despite the personal cost, she makes a decision that significantly changes everything in a matter of moments.

A man broke Katherine’s heart 20 years ago, and she has spent the last two decades hating him.  And working for him.  While Katherine has muscled her way onto Wall Street and held her own against what is normally a boys’ club, she has also found it hard to have anything resembling a normal life outside of work.

All three women get diagnoses of breast cancer at different stages.  Brooke and Samantha meet in an online chat forum for breast cancer patients and begin a tentative friendship.  Samantha then meets Katherine.  Through events before their diagnoses and after, the women work to help one another live their lives the best way they know how.

Author Greenberg does an admirable job of capturing women’s voices and emotions.  He manages to dissect the complexity of the female mind when it is caught up with life’s greatest adversities.  All three of his protagonists endure small situations and large, and Greenberg navigates all of them with relative ease.

Despite the ease, however, all three voices come across as slightly hard-edged, no doubt a minor side effect of the fact that the author is male.  Some of the narration sounds aggressive with the balance shifting toward an enthusiasm for action versus reflection, a key difference between men and women.  Also, Greenberg repeats some sentences verbatim in both narration and dialogue, making the construction of some sentences slightly clumsy and lacking imagination.  And he leaves out a key subplot factor: Brooke spends most of the first half of the book gearing up for her husband’s birthday present, but Greenberg doesn’t give readers the satisfaction of knowing what Scott thinks about it.

Still, Greenberg does accomplish one great feat: he will leave his readers thinking long after they close the cover.  Each of the three women approaches her diagnosis with a different viewpoint, and one of them makes a drastic decision regarding it.  If nothing else, Greenberg gives his readers enough material to make them deeply consider what they would do in a similar situation.

In addition, Greenberg’s wholly noble intentions make me want to read more from him.  I recommend this book for readers curious to know whether male authors can write female protagonists well.  While Greenberg doesn’t necessarily hit it on the head every time, he hits it more often than not.

***

What the ratings mean:

Bookmark it!–Read this book and then buy it and add it to to your own collection.  It’s definitely worth it!

Borrow it–Check this one out from the library; it’s a worthy read, but think twice before spending your hard-earned money on it.

Bypass it–Free time is precious.  Don’t spend it on this book!

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