“Is This All There Is?” feels like something of a punchline after reading because the title had me thinking much the same about the quality of the book, not the content. I have read quite many romance books that deal with the issue of cheating spouses well, but this wasn’t done very well, I think. Sure, it was realistic in turns, and one could say the portrayal of family and the stress associated with the female protagonist being directionless and not having her needs met in her current life were palpable, but I couldn’t go through this without thinking that the kids were the awesome ones in this story, and the vast majority of the adults were people I wanted to throw the book at. What made it worse was that the narrative drug its heels in some key places that it made me lose interest very quickly.
Beth is a 35-year old professor who isn’t happy with her respective life. I don’t know if I would call the blurb 100% accurate for this book because of it citing that Beth has the “perfect” life. From point one of this book – you can tell she’s overworked, overwhelmed, and her needs in her marriage are not met. Her confidence and ability to tell her husband “no” to things and assert her needs is bottom of the barrel at best. The story starts off establishing the relationships with the people Beth has in her life – and I liked the attention paid to Beth, her grandmother, mother, friend Shelley, her kids, and her husband. But it takes about 70 pages to work up to the encounter of Beth meeting her 21-year-old fling, a former student at that. Dave’s personality is about as dull as a doornail – I couldn’t get any dimensional arguments about why I should’ve cared for his character. He supposedly made Beth feel wanted/needed/appreciated, but I didn’t see that. Instead, I saw a 21-year-old clingy man-child who kept telling Beth how much he wanted/needed her. And even when Beth’s young son had a major accident befall him, Dave was more interested in getting Beth to see him again and to make her imagine being with him. Beth’s husband wasn’t any better considering how possessive he was, and when the other shoe fell and he discovered her transgressions, his reaction sickened me. I understand being angry, but telling your wife to drop her panties to show evidence that she *didn’t* sleep with her fling just made me sick.
The only reason I’m not giving this a single star is because the kids were great characters and it does walk through Beth attempting to address her issues alongside her husband in the end. The ending was a bit of a cop-out for its nature, but I did appreciate the therapist sessions toward the end. But it didn’t feel fulfilling to me in the way of a true coming to terms with what a more responsible and developed narrative would’ve brought to it. It was dramatic with no heart to it and, in turns, felt repetitious.
It was a sincere letdown for the promise it could’ve had.
Overall score: 1.5/5 stars
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher.