Once Upon A Nervous Breakdown

(No Series)

Patrick Sanchez delivers a hilarious, moving, and all-too-true snapshot of a generation of women stretched between extremes, frazzled by time and tides, and determined to make everything work without losing themselves in the process. Jennifer Costas has her hands full. She's the single mother of a five-year-old son;her full-time job is only getting busier;her force-of-nature college roommate recently showed up on her doorstep in need of a place to stay. . .indefinitely;her increasingly cranky "old-world" mother answers the phone every morning with, "I'm not dead," and her newly out-of-the-closet ex-husband is constantly late with his child support payments while he tries to get his new restaurant, Gonads (think gay Hooters) off the ground. She feels guilty about not making "stay-at-home mom cookies" and wary about tip-toeing into the dating scene carrying thirty-six years' worth of baggage. Having it all means juggling it all, and Jennifer's trying desperately not to drop anything. But just when Jennifer thinks she's operating at maximum capacity, her mother's health begins to fail. Faced with taking care of her mother in addition to her son, keeping her career on track, and maintaining some semblance of a social life, Jennifer's in for the ride of her life--one that will challenge her sense of humor, her sense of self, and her sense of sanity.

Once Upon a Nervous Breakdown is the sort of book that weaves side-splitting comedy, tearful drama and bizarre situations almost seamlessly. Jennifer Costas is a single mother, recently divorced from her out-of-the-closet husband, trying to raise a small son and juggle a full career. Her old college roommate, an activist with wild ideas about almost every aspect in life, moves in for an indefinite amount of time. The roommate and sexually-active neighbor encourage young Jennifer to enter the dating arena again. And last, but certainly not least, Jennifer must care for her increasingly dependent aging mother.

There were moments in the reading where I giggled for a minute straight, especially with the adorably promiscuous neighbor and her bizarre antics. Jennifer is a character who’s easy to fall in love with. Her sense of humor is strong, although she could learn to laugh at life a little more. Her ways of thinking are old-fashioned and she’s a bit too strait-laced, yet she’s open-minded enough to attempt to accept her ex-husband inviting her to see his cross-dancing performances. As a mother she’s completely devoted to her son, yet of course because of hectic scheduling must buy pre-made cookies rather than bake from scratch. Her mother and she get into the typical fights, but she’s there for her as often as she’s needed.

Many women can relate to Once Upon a Nervous Breakdown - divorce, raising a child, taking care of elderly parents, all while trying to proceed ahead in the business world. Sacrifices must be made, priorities set and adhered to, yet allowances must be spent to keep yourself whole.

The drama of this book (I won’t spoil it) is quite sad. I cried hard at the end, being vested in the characters and the situation. Sanchez writes these scenes well, portraying a serious aspect of life many of us have to face. It’s a touchy situation that requires the right level of writing style, which he ultimately finds. The ending is a bittersweet finale, making everything right as rain again, or as well as it can be after Jennifer’s life.

Pace-wise, it’s hard to get bored as Jennifer must tackle oncoming obstacles. Some situations ease on their own as life problems tend too, while others keep pushing themselves in her face until she has to make hard decisions. In either case, I was laughing, sympathizing, or crying right along with her. This is the sort of book that makes you come alive emotionally and ultimately walking away with a warm feeling inside.