Culture-Making, Dirty Dancing, and #MeToo: Waiting for a Star to Fall by Kerry Clare

Well, here I am writing another post about another brand new book, in spite of my previous assertion that is something I rarely do. But sometimes you go where the wind blows, and this October it floated me over to Waiting for a Star to Fall by Kerry Clare.

I am a big fan of Kerry Clare—her blog, Pickle Me This, is a treasure trove of brilliance. She is an editor at 49th Shelf, and she runs the fantastic Blog School, which midwifed this very blog you are reading into existence.

Waiting for a Star to Fall is Kerry’s third book, and I was thrilled to be able to virtually celebrate its release on October 27th along with her and a whole community of book lovers. The bookish celebrations ranged from a cake party to live events with Indigo and the Book Drunkard Festival to a champagne toast. Alas my rural internet prevented me from attending the live events, but I still got the benefits of feeling like I was part of a celebration! In addition, I got to support a fellow Canadian and truly good person, and engage in what Kelly Diels calls a “culture-making” act by pre-ordering the book, thus signalling to the publishing and bookselling folks out there that yes, this is something I am invested in seeing in the world.

And now onto the book itself:

Waiting for a Star to Fall is funny and heartbreaking and infuriating all at once. It is the story of Brooke Ellis, a young woman whose life has taken a dive after the confusing dissolution of her relationship with her boss, a politician with a reputation for charm and for being a “good guy.” At the novel’s start, Brooke has abruptly left her high-powered job in his office in the city and has moved back home to her small town and taken a position in the local public library. She is distant and evasive with her family. Something has happened, but what?

And then, Derek Murdoch, the aforementioned politician (and what a great politician name that is!) is suddenly making headlines, as he is being accused of sexual assault and misconduct.

What follows is the story of Brooke’s life in the following months, as she finds her way painfully through the messy tangle that her life has become. While she deals with the scandal and the lasting repercussions of her own relationship with Derek, she has to sort through her memories in order to discern truth from lies, love from manipulation, trust from naivete. All this while reeling from loss and sticking like glue to her loyalty to Derek, which prevents her from confiding in anyone.

The dedication in the front of the book reads “This book is for every woman who was ever 23.” I thought of that dedication often as I read the novel—it was a good reminder when I was feeling at my wit’s end with Brooke. I think this is an important story for a lot of reasons, not least of which is that it shows how easy it is for somebody to be manipulated and taken advantage of, no matter how many people may think that they “should have known better.” There were a lot of red flags with Derek Murdoch, but that is easy to say from the outside looking in. Brooke’s experience is told with a lot of compassion, and I was very grateful for and moved by it.

I feel like this review is making Waiting for a Star to Fall sound really heavy—let me assure you that it doesn’t feel that way! I burned through this novel in a couple of days, sitting up late to finish it. The characters ring true and many are really likeable—special shout out to Brooke’s sister Nicole and her new roommate Lauren. (I absolutely LOVE that one scene features Brooke having a Eureka! moment inspired by watching Dirty Dancing with Lauren.) The dialogue is effortless and funny and real. Without giving away any spoilers, I’ll just say that the late-book revelations, as well as the ending, hit you in the gut.

There is a lot to love about this book, although I draw the line at calling it “a love story at its core”, as one of the cover quotes does. I think this is, at its core, a story of resilience and of growing up. There is a great moment when Lauren says to Brooke: “That’s the thing. What I couldn’t figure out, what you’re doing here. What you’re waiting for.” Brooke doesn’t know herself. But we know, because we know the title of the book.

The discovery that one’s heroes are deeply flawed is not an easy one for any of us to make, in any walk of life. Less still when we are in a position where we have slowly, over years, allowed said hero to steal more and more of our own agency. But as the old adage goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. The Brooke at the end of this novel is just beginning.

I hope that I’ve inspired you to go out and find this novel! It’s a great read, entertaining and witty, with a core of steel.

Happy reading!

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