Let’s talk about marriage, cancer, karma, and the sins of the past. All themes of Swan Huntley’s sophomore novel, The Goddesses.
Nancy Murphy and her family have moved to Kona, Hawaii from San Diego for a fresh start. Following her husband’s affair with a blonde named Shelly, they’ve seized the opportunity to move them and their twin sons Cam and Jed to the island.
Soon after they arrive, Nancy feels herself beginning to feel like she’s just settled into her same routine in a different place. So she decides to start doing yoga, and that’s where she meets Ana, a free-spirited yoga instructor.
The two form a bond as they get to know each other. When Ana asked Nancy to help her try to build good karma by doing some good deeds. Ana’s natural charisma resonates with Nancy and she knows that she would do anything that Ana asks of her.
Swan Huntley’s sophomore novel can be described in four acts:
Act I: In which Nancy and her family attempt to make a new start in a house near an island but find they are falling into the same routine.
Act II: In which Nancy Murphy decides to explore what this island has to offer and meets Ana, a free-spirited yoga teacher.
Act II: In which Nancy finds out that Ana is dying of pancreatic cancer and they set out to right as many karma-wrongs as possible.
Act IV: In which the novel finally picked up the pace and becomes a thriller.
Overall, I like the plot of this book. I love books that don’t necessarily have a romantic plot, they just focus on established relationships and platonic friendships. The Goddesses is mostly about Nancy and Ana’s friendship, which I like, but there was enough foreshadowing that I could tell something was off.
I read We Could Be Beautiful by Swan Huntley last month, and while I liked the writing, I wasn’t completely sold on the characters. Still, there was enough foreshadowing and family drama that I kept reading. I didn’t feel that way with The Goddesses. While I liked Nancy and Ana’s characters, I felt like there wasn’t enough surrounding Nancy’s life to give it any substance.
Nancy herself isn’t an interesting character, but I was hoping that she would break out of her shell. Several chapters begin with the routine of making coffee, and her husband’s resentment that Nancy spends so much time with Ana. I like that conflict, and I think the book has a lot to offer in terms of relationship dynamics in that regard, but other sections of the book fell short.
I felt like Nancy’s family wasn’t fleshed out well enough. The twins seem like window-dressing for most of the book, when they turned up they spoke in unison or echoes and usually answered in monosyllabic phrases. (Okay, that may not be unlike a teenager, but about halfway through the book it gets annoying.)
Really, the only relationship that kept me reading was Ana and Nancy, and their relationship reminded me of Jenny Downham’s Before I Die mixed with a bit of Tuesday with Morrie for most of the book. Then it took a very rushed turn as the ladies set out to fulfill one of Ana’s final requests, which is when the novel got really interesting, and I started to really connect with the characters more.
In the end, I struggle to rate this book because I do feel like I got something out of it, but I also don’t feel like the characters were developed well enough, and there’s one final twist at the end that I wished was alluded to more throughout the story.
FINAL RATING: 3 Stars