Composing Myself

Composing Myself - Elena Aitken 3.5 star read

There are three women in the Monroe family. The youngest is Whitney, a recent college graduate and working teacher; her mother, Patti, is a hard-working professional exotic dancer or stripper; and, the oldest is Patti's mother, Hazel. Hazel, or Grams, raised Whitney in a loving environment. Patti struggled to be a good mother, but was forced to give up her daughter. Whitney struggles to be the person she thinks others expect her to be. In addition, she struggles to have a real relationship with her mom without being judgmental about her job. The Monroe women love one another but can they learn to accept one another with judgment and scorn before it's too late.

Composing Myself begins with Whitney's grandmother, Grams, moving into a retirement community. At the time, she's working as a substitute teacher at a very prestigious local private school and wants more than anything to be offered a full-time permanent job at this institution. She's in a tepid-relationship with a fellow teacher, William. She only sees her mother once every few weeks. And to add insult to injury, she's just been told that her Grams has end-stage cancer and Grams refuses any terminal care to prolong the inevitable. The only bright light in her world is actually from her new roommate, Reid Phillips, an aspiring songwriter, a sometime jingle-writer, and an excellent cook. Needless to say, Whitney and Reid wind up in a push-pull relationship that adds to the overall drama and angst.

This was actually the first book I've ever read by Ms. Aitken and I was a little surprised by how much the story pulled me in. My initial reaction after reading a few chapters, was "oh no, not another romantic coming-of-age story." And yes, Composing Myself can be classified as a romantic coming-of-age story, but it is much more. It is a family drama, it is about self-discovery, it is about self-acceptance, and on one small level, it is about preconceived expectations and prejudice. I found Composing Myself to start off a little slow, but my reading pace picked up after only a few chapters and I kept reading simply because I wanted to know how it all ends. There are a few surprises as Whitney and Patti's stories are revealed, but the inclusion of such flawed characters made the story much more realistic and believable. I've got to add that I needed a few tissues toward the end (be prepared -- no, I'm not going to reveal what happens; read it for yourself!). Composing Myself spotlights the notion that we all need to be true to ourselves and be willing to accept others as they are without expecting any conformity, a great message and a wonderful read.