Book Review: Grown-Up Pose by Sonya Lalli

I really enjoyed Sonya Lalli’s first book, The Matchmaker’s List, and so I have been looking forward to reading Grown-Up Pose. I think I enjoyed Grown-Up Pose even more! This is a story of one woman’s journey of self-discovery. Let’s get this out of the way: the blurb for Grown-Up Pose is a little misleading. From the blurb, you might think this is about a woman who owns a yoga studio, but the studio itself doesn’t much come into play until the last bit of the plot. It’s everything that happens with Anu before and after the studio purchase that really makes the story. So Anu is a woman who did not have much life experience under her belt when she married young. Her husband Neil is the only man she’s ever dated, and they have a wonderful little girl she dotes on. Anu herself has a part-time job as a nurse (a career she felt pushed into by her parents). Her life mostly revolves around her husband and daughter. Her husband is a bit of a man-child himself. He’s irresponsible (he leaves the front door wide open he’s home with their daughter – what?) and pretty much helpless around the house.  As a mother, Anu has characteristics that other mothers might relate to. She puts everyone else’s lives first. She doesn’t necessarily lose touch with her best friends, but finding time with them like she did when single doesn’t seem to happen. Mix that with a life that feels utterly not of your own making, but one that was shaped by parental and cultural pressures, and the result is hot mess of a woman who isn’t entirely emotionally mature herself. She wakes up one day, wonders how she got here – and wants more. In a series of really impulsive decisions, she turns her life upside down, enters the dating scene, rediscovers a passion, buys a failing yoga studio, takes a much overdue (solo) trip abroad. Her life is a train wreck, really, but ultimately, she finds her way, her purpose, and herself. What I enjoyed: I loved the tone of the story. It was quick, witty, and optimistic despite everything that happens. It felt honest (even when I wanted to shake a character or two). I should be upset with Anu (and at times I am). She IS selfish, a bit irresponsible, and immature. BUT – I can also see where it’s coming from, and that she isn’t completely free from guilt in her actions, so the understanding of the why and her discomfort with her actions lets me keep turning pages. Something about this story really captured me. It moved swiftly, it had humor, and it is an engaging story. I felt invested in Anu, flaws and all. Her friends and family are confused/disappointed by her actions, and the hot mess that is her life feels real and honest. Perhaps it depends on perspective; as a mother myself whose career took a back seat to raise my kids, I could grasp some of what she was feeling (a life defined by your kids, your spouse) even though I myself had a lot more life experience than she did. Lalli manages to blend this somewhat familiar sense of loss and want with the (less familiar) cultural influences and restrictions that drive them in Anu’s life, and it still connects. There’s also a lot of character growth. We see it in Anu (slowly) and we see it, indirectly, in Neil. We even see it in Anu’s parents, as her mother reaches out for a dream she has held, and her father steps into the role of caregiver. The writing caught me emotionally, and despite its flaws, I couldn’t put the book down. What didn’t work for me: I wish that a few characters were a little more involved in the story (Imogen) or fleshed out (her best friends). Weirdly, I also wish that her parents felt more controlling so I could understand how she felt pushed into a life she didn’t ask for. (Her parents are freaking adorable together!) Her mom is overwhelming at times, but I wanted more. Did she feel pushed into her decisions, or did she simply feel like she had to live up to certain expectations?) The time jumps were confusing and distracting at times, too. In the end, though…. This is a story about taking risks and finding yourself. The story, like Anu’s life, is messy, but ultimately, it charmed me and I really enjoyed the story. It offers a great escape from the situation we’re all currently stuck in. (What I wouldn’t give to hop on a plane to London right now!) I’ll recommend it for its optimism and its engaging story. I did struggle a bit with the rating, but since I enjoyed it despite the problems I had, I’m giving it a 3-1/2 rounded to 4 (for Goodreads and Amazon.) If you are looking for more stories like Grown-up Pose: