Every time I read the title of this book I start singing in my head the 'Is that all there is.." part of Shut Up by The Black Eyed Peas. While that was annoying, I loved this book and as a wife and mother, I found it scarily relatable.
Patricia Mann is a lovely new Facebook friend and is the best retweeter around (Thanks so much for the retweets Patricia). I jumped on the opportunity to review her book and learn more about her. So today Patricia has written a fun guest post, answered my questions and I'm sharing my thoughts on Is this All There Is, and an excerpt.
Thanks for hosting me as a guest blogger, Leigh! I know we share a love for blogging about our families, so I thought I’d try something new. With just my sixteen-year-old son and me at home on a lazy summer day, interviewing him seemed like a fun idea. It turns out that our talk was quite revealing – about both him and me! I changed my son’s name to protect his anonymity, using Sam instead, the character in my book who’s loosely based on him at a much younger age.
Patricia: What do you think my book is about?
Sam: I think it’s about a bored woman who has sex with a student, or ex-student or whatever, because her husband is distant and working.
Patricia: What do you like about having me as your mom?
Sam: You’re nice and you’re not unreasonable or crazy.
Patricia: What do you not like about having me as your mom?
Sam: You’re overprotective a lot of the time. You don’t really let me go to parties.
Patricia: What’s good about being sixteen?
Sam: I have a car and I have freedom without any real responsibility.
Patricia: What’s not good about being sixteen?
Sam: You guys own all my stuff, so you pretty much own me.
Patricia: What do you like and not like about having a little brother?
Sam: He annoys me a lot of the time but when I get really bored, he can be entertaining.
Patricia: What kind of grandmother do you think I’ll be?
Sam: I think you’ll be a cool grandma, at least when they’re younger, probably not as relaxed as my grandparents (Patricia’s parents). But when they’re younger and all it takes to be the cool one is to give them candy, I’m sure you’ll be the cool one.
Patricia: Why are you so obsessed with your fish tank?
Sam: Because it’s a fun hobby and it’s peaceful and the fish don’t tell me to do stuff.
Patricia: What are your plans right now?
Sam: I’m going to eat, then go to the chiropractor, then go to the store, and then pick up my little brother from camp.
Patricia: What do I do that embarrasses you?
Sam: When I have friends over, you like to spy on us and see what we’re doing.
Patricia: What’s the most embarrassing thing your dad does?
Sam: Dad doesn’t really do anything that embarrassing. He makes weird inappropriate jokes sometimes with my friends but most of my friends think he’s pretty awesome.
Patricia: You seem to be our dog’s favorite person, why do you think he loves you so much?
Sam: Because I feed him every once in a while and I let him sleep in my bed.
Patricia: What kind of friends do you like to hang out with?
Sam: People who don’t borrow money and never pay you back.
Patricia: Give me an example of the teenage drama you see.
Sam: Recently, this girl I know had a party and she checked with all her neighbors to make sure they were okay with it because there was gonna be loud music and they all said yes. Then she had the party and the cops showed up and her parents almost had to pay a $1,500.00 ticket because there was drinking and stuff.
Interruption by Patricia: Wait, you weren’t at that party, were you?
Sam: No, I wouldn’t have even bothered to ask because it would have been an automatic no. Then I found out later who called the cops and it was another kid our age who dislikes the girl who threw the party. So I told her that he was the one who called the cops and she got really mad at him.
Patricia: You have a very adventurous, risk-taking personality. For example, you insisted on making the 108-story leap off the top of the Stratosphere in Vegas, which nearly gave me a heart attack. Why do you think you have no fear?
Sam: Because I’m sixteen and those things are fun and I can’t fully understand the consequences of my decisions right now because my brain isn’t fully formed yet.
Patricia: What other risky activities do you plan to engage in when you’re older?
Sam: Definitely sky diving - I think the day I turn 18.
Patricia: What do you want to be when you grow up?
Sam: A writer, a doctor, or a film editor.
Patricia: Is there anything you’d like to add?
Sam: I would like to have it shown on the record that whatever you’re reading is a censored version of what I actually said.
(My boys aren't teenagers yet, so I must admit this interview freaked me out a bit - particularly the leaping stuff, and I agree about the parties. - LB)
Tell me about your latest book
Beth, the main character in Is This All There Is?, appears to have it all. Her husband is reliable, she has two adorable kids, and enjoys her a part-time teaching job at the local university. But something isn’t quite right, otherwise how could she allow herself to be drawn into an affair with a sweet, sexy, young former student who showers her with attention? Torn between her loyalty to one man and her lust for another, Beth must make a choice.
What inspired you to write this story?
When I started writing it, I wanted to explore the challenges of being an overwhelmed working wife and mother trying to find balance. That subject interested me more than any other because it was the story of my life! As the book took shape, Beth developed a mind of her own. It was her idea to have an affair with a student. I had to admit, it is one of the many unhealthy forms of escape I’ve seen women fall prey to. So I went with it.
Tell me a little about your Work in Progress
I’m so excited about the book I’m currently working on. My co-author is my mother. She’s preparing to retire from over 30 years of stellar work as a nurse, mostly in critical care. So our book is set in a hospital and each chapter will be packed with medical drama from the heartbreaking to the miraculous and everything in between, based on true stories. Our protagonist is a nurse who’s involved in a steamy secret romance with a hot ER doctor, but he doesn’t seem as ready for a commitment she is. So we’ll see where that goes.
Do you have a character you’ve enjoyed writing the most?
I’m tempted to say I enjoyed writing Beth’s character the most, because she’s like me in many ways, though not all. But trying to get into the heads of characters very different from me has been an exciting challenge. I had fun writing from the point of view of Beth’s seven-year-old son, Sam. When I was originally writing those parts, my older son was about that age so I would draw from the funny or challenging things he said. Many of his lines are taken straight out of my son’s mouth – but don’t let him know that, please, he’s a teenager now!
What sort of books do you like to read?
I love spiritual books that help me to be a better person, such as A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle. I also adore chicklit written by authors who are dear friends like Samantha Stroh Bailey, Shelly Hickman, and Lori Verni-Fogarsi.
Chick Lit as a genre has apparently died a few times, which we know isn’t true. How do you see the future of Chick Lit?
I get frustrated when I hear that because it doesn’t make any sense to me. There are so many definitions of chick lit. I see it as anything from funny to serious stories by women, about women, for women, involving the feelings and experiences women share. What could be wrong with that and how could something like that ever die?
Ultimate chick lit love interest? (either from an existing novel or just your ideal)
Realistic: Sam from Shelly Hickman’s beautiful and moving novel, Somewhere Between Black and White. He’s smart, sexy, compassionate, and wise. And I love that he’s a teacher like me!
Fantasy: Will from Renee Carlino’s awesome hit, Sweet Thing. A true rock star in the making, he’s incredibly hot and charismatic, yet he has this irresistible vulnerable, genuine side. Dangerous, but I’d go for it if I had the chance (and weren’t happily married!).
Patricia Mann is a university professor. She lives in California with her husband, their two kids, and a sweet, silly old dog.
Is This All There Is?
Beth Thomas has the perfect life. At thirty-five, she’s married to her college sweetheart, has two adorable kids, and teaches part time at the local university. But when a friend persuades Beth to go dancing on a rare night out, a chance meeting with twenty one year old Dave, one of her former students, changes the course of her life. Loud music, too much to drink, and the thrill of feeling young again lead to an unforgettable kiss that was never supposed to happen. As she tries to put the memory behind her, Dave’s pursuit leaves Beth torn between what her mind says is right and what her heart and body crave.
ExcerptI got home a little after seven thirty, later than usual because I had pulled over to extend my phone call, but no one seemed to notice. Rick and the kids were sprawled out on the couch with the TV blaring.
“Can you turn that thing down please?” Rick grabbed the remote and lowered the volume.
I stepped over the winding wood train tracks that covered most of the living room floor and collapsed on the couch between the boys and gave them each a kiss on the forehead. Rick nudged Sam aside and sat next to me.
“How was class?” Oh God, he knows, he can smell it on me. He knows I was kissing another man.
“It was fine.”
“Really, what was the subject?” I gave him a suspicious look.
“I’m interested, really, you never talk about what you teach.”
Sam noticed that Mommy and Daddy were going to talk about something they don’t usually talk about, which in his mind is always an invitation to join in.
“Yeah, Mom, tell us what you were teaching about tonight.”
Jack looked exhausted. I lifted him into my lap and ran my fingers along his back and arms. His sweet baby smell made me pause and inhale deeply for more. His little eyes fluttered and I wanted to lay my head down and drift off with him but I could see that Sam and Rick were waiting for my response.
“Okay, well, you know the class I was teaching tonight is a business communication class, right?” They both nodded with enthusiasm although I was sure neither of them actually knew that.
“So tonight, we talked about teamwork. It’s just like on your soccer team, Sammy. When people work together, they have to treat each other nicely, and take turns, and make sure they have common goals.”
“So you mean you taught the college kids about soccer? Well duh, I could teach that class.”
“No, it wasn’t about soccer, it was about teamwork, you know, taking other people into account when you make decisions rather than just thinking about yourself.” A sharp pain shot across the small of my back.
4.5 Stars :)
I really enjoyed this book. The parts about mothering, feeling insecure and if there was more to life were spot on and I could really relate to Beth, and her dissatisfaction was well written.
I liked both the guys but have to admit I was team Rick, although he was frustrating at times so could understand Beth's annoyance. I did like Dave but he seemed so intense and love struck that I found I wondered about his sincerity, but then the vast difference between how he and Rick both were towards Beth made it very easy to understand her actions and motivations and it all led to a very satisfying and realistic ending.