The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs

Posted September 1, 2015 by Elizabeth in book reviews/ 13 Comments

The Perfect Comeback of Caroline JacobsThe Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs by Matthew Dicks
Genres: Contemporary Women
Published by St. Martin's Press Source: NetGalley
September 8th 2015 | Pages: 224
Purchase on Amazon | Add to Goodreads

Caroline Jacobs is a wimp, someone who specializes in the suffering of tiny indignities in silence. And the big ones, too. But when the twinset wearing president of the local Parent Teacher Organization steps out of line one too many times, Caroline musters the courage to assert herself. With a four-letter word, no less.Caroline's outburst has awakened something in her. Not just gumption, but a realization that the roots of her tirade can be traced back to something that happened to her as a teenager when her best friend very publicly betrayed her. So, with a little bit of bravery, Caroline decides to go back to her home town and tell off her childhood friend. She busts her daughter out of school, and the two set off to deliver the perfect comeback . . . some twenty-five years later. But nothing goes as planned. Long buried secrets rise to the surface, and Caroline finds she has to face much more than one old, bad best friend.

I received The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. This does not influence my opinions or the content of my review. This review contains affiliate links and is in compliance with FTC guidelines.periwinkle-swirl
Caroline Jacobs is the opposite of myself in every way. Indecisive, meek, a worker-bee who lets her husband make the family decisions. (Luckily he’s a good guy.) It’s amazing I liked her and this novel so much. And I really did, gobbling it up in two sittings. The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs is definitely one of my favorite reads this summer both for the storyline and the great characters, including Caroline.

 middle school lunch room by woodleywonderworks
middle school lunch room by woodleywonderworks

After twenty years of hiding her thoughts and holding down her own desires, Caroline finally has cracked in the face of someone else being bullied at the PTO meeting. The road trip with her daughter Polly comes out of Caroline’s own crisis and Polly being suspended from school. Without packing or informing her husband Tom, Caroline and Polly set off from Maryland to Blackstone in central Massachusetts, Caroline’s rarely-visited hometown. Arriving at her childhood home, Caroline observes the close relationship developed over many summers between her daughter and her mother, who lovingly runs a pet cemetery, helping owners grieve their beloved furry family members. It is only upon her arrival that Caroline begins to realize there is more to her outburst than a long-ago incident of cafeteria humiliation, and she needs to face demons within her own family to come to terms with the woman she wants to be.

In addition to Caroline’s mother Penelope, there is a great cast of characters including George, who is in the process of grieving Tutu, a bird he has had for more than thirty years, Spartacus, Penelope’s blind gentleman-friend, whom Caroline knows nothing about, Adele, Spartacus’ health care aid, and Emily Kaplan, former best friend, later bully, nemesis of all Caroline’s dreams since ninth grade. We meet Caroline’s husband through phone calls and texts, as well as Caroline’s reflections on him. He is supportive of her photography and wants more for her than she asks for, making him one of the best literary husbands I’ve ever met.

By SteveStrummer (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
By Steve Strummer via Wikimedia Commons
While Caroline is meeting with Emily, Polly, her outspoken, tough-as-nails daughter is thrown together with Jane, Emily’s daughter. Jane is everything Polly isn’t, preppy, popular, driven to do well in school. Unsurprisingly the relationship doesn’t become a friendship, although by the end of the book the girls have an understanding of each other.  It is the relationship between Caroline and Polly that makes the story for me. On their road trip and while in Blackstone they reveal their dreams and secrets, speaking more openly than they have in a long time. Caroline learns how Polly sees her, and it helps her to find the strength to confront a secret of her childhood that no one else knows. Caroline shares this huge secret with Polly who helps her work through horrible guilt about the situation and see that she was just a child and can’t be blamed. Polly is also the one who ultimately forces a true confrontation between Caroline and Emily, rather than the politely fake, “I was mean to you, sorry,” “Oh, I’m over it. Water under the bridge,” conversation they were having.

The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs is a story of redemption and understanding. Caroline comes to understand Emily’s actions without condoning them, Polly understands why her mother has always been so reticent and wimpy, and everyone learns that you can’t change what happened or dwell on it, just keep moving forward. This is a great story for people of any age, and should really be considered as something for high school or young adult reading, not that it is written for that audience, but it may keep some readers from spending thirty years hiding and feeling like a loser the way Caroline has. The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs will be added to the books I give as high school graduation gifts for sure.

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13 responses to “The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs

  1. I am one of those people who will always think of a comeback hours later. My brain just isn’t that snappy when I’m angry or whatever. It’s weird. I like the sound of this book, especially the understanding between mother and daughter at the end of it.
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  2. So happy that you liked the book! Your words mean a great deal to me, and it was the perfect way to start my morning. I will be walking around with a smile today because of you. Thanks.

    • So glad you saw it. I don’t know if you’re still teaching, but tomorrow is the first day for many towns around here, so have a good school year.

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