From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Two new novels, one from a seasoned veteran, one from a newcomer, take on the subject of a woman finding herself. At the center of Berg's eighth novel is Samantha Morrow, a woman who knows her marriage is far from perfect and feels helpless as she watches it fall apart in front of her. When her husband, David, walks out on her, it seems as though the rest of her world is falling apart as well. Her eleven-year-old son, Travis, is sullen and withdrawn; her mother keeps trying to set her up on dates; and she has to find a way to keep her house. Soon she is advertising for roommates and, at the advice of a new friend, King, taking on temporary jobs. As Sam begins to take charge of her own life, she gains a new confidence in herself. There's love in Sam's future but not until she finds out who she is on her own. Sam is an engaging character, and so are the rest of the supporting cast, making this an enjoyable, uplifting read. Brown's first novel revolves around Mandy Boyle, a girl who is finally about to escape the small town she's lived in all her life. She's headed for a new, exciting world of possibilities: college. At first, it's everything Mandy imagined it would be: new friends, stimulating classes, and a chance to reinvent herself. But when her father dies suddenly, her new happiness begins to fall apart. Her sickly, clingy mother wants her to come home, but Mandy resists, instead returning to college only to find herself spiraling downward into depression, missing classes, and alienating her friends. When she goes to spend the weekend with her older boyfriend, Booner, she simply doesn't go back to school. She falls into a routine and is able to hide away for a while, until events call for her to make the decisions about her future that she's been avoiding. Mandy's coming of age, or "quickening," comes slowly, but surely. --Kristine Huntley