Time Off for Good Behavior ~ Lani Diane Rich

  • Title: Time Off for Good Behavior
  • Author: Lani Diane Rich
  • Genre: Mainstream
  • Format: Kindle
  • Source: Own
  • Reviewed by: Olga
  • Rating: 3 out of 5

Description:  For Wanda Lane, life has been one long string of screw-ups. Her abusive ex-husband keeps threatening to kill her, she just lost her crappy job, and a head injury (sustained while diving off the witness stand to attack an obnoxious attorney) has left her hearing phantom music no one else can hear. It isn’t until she hits the rock bottom of her bottle of scotch that she begins to wonder if maybe — just maybe — the problem is her.

On her pothole-ridden path to becoming a decent human being, she makes friends with Elizabeth, a single mother looking for her own solid ground; Father Gregory, the patient priest who counsels Wanda, even though she’s not technically Catholic; and Walter, a Jimmy-Stewart-ish lawyer who is smart, sexy and single… and so far out of Wanda’s league that she thinks he must have been sent from God as one last punishment for her past transgressions. Can an angry, lost woman find her way back from failure, or are second chances the stuff of myth?

Wanda’s gonna find out. You may want to move out of her way.

Reinventing oneself is a slow and gut-wrenching endeavor. Wanda Lane, the heroine of this novel, only resorts to this painful method when she hit the rock-bottom of her life.

Since college, she has been hiding behind the mask of a rude, abrasive, non-caring broad with anger management issues. She has let the sensitive feminine side of her almost disappear. Constantly in terror of her abusive ex-husband, lest he finds her again, and the abuse resumes, she calls herself a ‘wiseass’, which is as good a definition as any. Hating herself and unable to believe that anyone could like her, she meets any friendship overtures with derision, invariably driving people away. Only a chance encounter with a charming single lawyer William forces her to reevaluate her priorities and attempt to revert to what she could’ve been, if her traumatic marriage didn’t occur.

The complex, controversial theme of this novel is emphasized by a number of truly frightening situations and humorous little vignettes. Some of them made me chuckle. Others cause shivers of dread. All of them kept me turning the pages.

But… I can’t truthfully say that I liked this novel or enjoyed it. I didn’t. And the reason for that: I disliked Wanda. She is a rebellious, self-destructive bitch, and I don’t like or respect such women. I don’t understand her drive to self-ruination. 

For half the book, Wanda either wallows in self-pity or drowns her grievances in whiskey. Hers are real grievances, I’m sure, but her troubles are not the worst in the world, and there are several solutions to her problems, none of which she even attempts. At least at first.

Until a perfect guy comes her way – suave, handsome, wealthy (he is a lawyer), and in love with her into the bargain. Only then does she make a push to clean up her act. As if a guy is a necessity for a woman to live with dignity.

Besides, William is not real. He is too good to be true. I’ve never met such men in real life, and I’m certain no one has. He is a ‘prince charming’ of the author’s dreams, almost a metaphor. Why does Wanda need this Disney-style knight in shining pink armor to put her life together? As if her life is meaningless without a penis to enrich it. It doesn’t feel right to me.

I’ve read everything this writer has written so far, in both her incarnations – Lani Diane Rich and Lucy March – and I intend to continue reading her. She is a great writer, even though her novels are uneven. Some of them I loved dearly. Others left me indifferent. This is one of the latter variety, but I hope the next one would be better. She can do it; I know she can do it. Can’t wait.