Glitter Baby by Susan Elizabeth Phillips Release Date: January 1, 1987 Publisher: Avon Standalone* Number of Pages: 429 Paperback Source: Warren Public Library Chick Lit** Rating: NC-17 Read 5/2/18 to 5/4/18
The thing that would make the most sense is to start this review by explaining my asterisks above. I’m listing this book as a standalone. *I think it was originally intended that way when it was written because, from what I can find, there’s not much of a connection to this story and the first story of the Wynette, Texas series where Goodreads lists it as .5 of that series. Also, most .5 books are not over 200 pages let alone over 400 pages. As for my other asterisk, I just don’t feel I can list this as a contemporary romance book. **Yes, there is a romantic element to this book. In fact, there is more than one relationship that can be looked at here. But contemporary romance? Not by my definition. I’ll get into that more in the meat of my review.
This story was not at all what I expected. Between the description of the book and the classification of contemporary romance, I was not expecting this story to spend one (very short) chapter on Glitter Baby before jumping to the past and giving us the story of Belinda, Glitter Baby’s mom. I’m certainly glad the story took that turn because, although I didn’t like Belinda from the start, those chapters gave me the only ounce of sympathy I had for the character and truly helped me to see her motivations throughout this book.
This story is actually quite a complicated tale of highly dysfunctional mother/daughter relationship. At its heart, this not about either of them falling in love or finding their knight in shining armor. It’s about Belinda’s weaknesses as a mother and a human and Fleur’s (aka Glitter Baby) slow journey to true emotional independence. As much as I loathe Belinda and her husband Alexi, I loved seeing Fleur pull herself up by her bootstraps over and over again, coming out stronger and stronger each time. It’s not about Fleur finding a man to complete her. It’s about Fleur figuring out how to complete herself and, in the process, learning to forge relationships outside of her mother’s realm. She learns who she is, not who she is told she is.
Truly, the word hate is too tame of a word to explain my feelings toward Belinda. Alexi is also lower than pond scum and I cannot even begin to fathom his sick mind. Yet, what Belinda does seem so much worse to me. That she’s oblivious to anything but her own wants and needs doesn’t make it any better. Being self-centered is a character flaw, not a biological crutch.
Now, there are a few notes I want to make that will sound enigmatic until you’ve read the book. But I don’t want to give spoilers so I’m going to try to word these things in such a way as to not give a lot away.
There is a scene where Fleur realizes Jake is carrying a gun. This causes her to remember some things he had told her about Vietnam. At that moment she has a sense of panic and fear for things Jake may or may not have done while he was in Vietnam. It’s so judgmental and raw and I was so mad at Fleur while reading that, but I was also understanding her fear and horror. Then I thought of all of our vets from all of our wars and how they not only have to deal with their own memories and self-judgment, but also the judgment of those that could not possibly understand what they had been through. It was a very real and well-written scene. This, in a roundabout way, leads to another wonderful scene when Jake realizes he’s not alone in his feelings and he can maybe help others in the same boat by writing about his experience. Beautiful.
Glitter Baby is about so much more than love and the mother/daughter relationship. It’s about acceptance of oneself and acceptance of others. It’s about friendships, real and manufactured. Although this story will rile your gut and give you a sense of doom while you wait for that other shoe to drop, ultimately it’s a story of hope.
One last note…once again SEP finds a way to have a book written in the late 80s not seem too dated (of course there’s talk of Vietnam and certain fashion icons and movie stars that make it obvious of the years it takes place). Emotions are emotions no matter what generation they’re being set in, so if the writer is good those other things (like mentions of Christie Brinkley and Twiggy) just fall to the wayside.