Lydia’s Party: A Novel by Margaret Hawkins

Book Review:

A slow-grower of a story, the full impact and impression doesn’t seem to arrive until after the book is closed and you have had time to let the threads of the tale tangle with your own experience to create a tapestry of impressions, guaranteed to be different for all who encounter this novel.

I will say that this is a novel that is not geared toward the twenty-somethings of this world, the women are all middle aged, having established their lives both professionally and personally, and many of the lessons and trials shared will be thought-provoking for, yet not relatable to, readers who haven’t achieved a certain polish (or tarnish) from their years.   

We follow Lydia as she prepares her annual party for her friends: an annual tradition that brings these long-standing friends together to share updates on their lives, their trials and their successes.  And eclectic group of women, married and divorced, happy and not so, career focused or not: they have a striking honesty in their relationships with one another and themselves.  We meet each of the women in the group as we see their preparations for the party, their insights on interactions and relationships, as they delve into their fears, dreams and history.

Most prominent is Lydia, as she is preparing for the party, and her reflections on both herself and the guests that are coming.  There is a thread of melancholy that winds throughout the story: partly tied to opportunities lost or missed, and partly a delicate longing for different and ‘more’, this tone doesn’t bog the tale down, it merely reinforces Lydia’s ‘everywoman’ status: we all have regrets and wonder what if, yet here she has managed to move past those to find a sense of contentment and connection in her life, or so she (and they all) believe.

What emerges is the strength and reliance that these women have on their bond: that place where total honesty is not off-putting or shocking, but simply accepted and supported: where you can draw from the experience of others to help in your own decisions, choices and attitude.  No, the pacing is not perfect and we are distracted by some unnecessary focus on elements that don’t seem to relate to the larger story at hand, but the slower pace allows time for the revelations and lessons to settle and fall into place as you read.

Margaret Hawkins has created a novel and characters that will speak to each reader in a different and unique way, giving a different impression as their story unfolds and their interactions are revealed.  Yes, this is a book that many will find engrossing and honest, with moments that will inform their own relationships with their friends of long standing.

Lydia’s Party: A Novel by Margaret Hawkins

Title: Lydia's Party: A Novel
Author: Margaret Hawkins
Genre: Literary Fiction
Published by: Viking
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
Pages: 304
Rated: four-stars
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Lydia is having a party—it’s a party she hosts every year for six women friends who treasure the midwinter bash. Over a table laden with a feast of food and wine, the women revel in sharing newsy updates, simmering secrets, and laughter. As this particular evening unfolds, Lydia prepares to make a shattering announcement.

As we follow these friends through their party preparations, we meet flawed but lovable characters who are navigating the hassles of daily chores while also meditating in stolen moments on their lives, their regrets, their complicated relationships, and their deepest desires. When Lydia’s announcement shocks them all, they rediscover the enduring bonds of friendship and find their lives changing in unexpected ways.

Tender, wryly funny, and exquisitely written, Lydia’s Party poignantly considers both the challenges of everyday life and of facing our fears while creating characters whose foibles and feistiness will capture readers’ hearts.

A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.


About Margaret Hawkins

Margaret Hawkins is the author of two previous novels, A Year of Cats and Dogs and How to Survive a Natural Disaster, and a memoir about her sister, After Schizophrenia: The Story of My Sister's Reawakening. She wrote about art for many years for the Chicago Sun-Times and is currently a Senior Lecturer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.