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The Sweet Spot


The Sweet Spot

Amy Poeppel doesn't pen thrillers or mysteries with stunning twists that surprise. Rather, as in her new release, she writes about people who are like you and me. They suffer and act accordingly, do stupid things and regret them.

In THE SWEET SPOT, Poeppel introduces us to a woman we don't like very much. Melinda has just been dumped by Russell, her husband of 30 years, for the younger Felicity. She's furious and livid, somewhere way beyond rational thought. So she does what any normal, irate, betrayed person would do. She goes on a vengeful spree of hateful acts against anyone she perceives might have been even tangentially part of the betrayal. And the recipients of her hatred are a bit mystified because they don't really understand what they've done to deserve this incredible level of loathing.

"When you turn the last page, your heart will feel a bit fuller, and you will be happy that you made the acquaintance of this different kind of family."

Lauren is a potter whose creations are being snapped up by Felicity, a beautiful British woman with a chain of upscale stores and a decorating show on television. Olivia works for Felicity, and when she is helping out at one of the stores, Melinda comes in set on revenge against Felicity. The result, unfortunately recorded by another shopper and posted online, goes viral and causes Olivia to lose the job she loves so much.

Lauren doesn't understand why the new receptionist at her children's private school shows such vitriol towards her. It's Melinda, and she signs her up to care for the dozen gerbils in the school's classrooms over the holidays and to go on field trips with classes her children aren't even in. Plus, she makes up things about her. Melinda is out of control.

The way Poeppel plots out the story, the lives of these three women intersect. And when Felicity gets pregnant with Russell, he agrees to quit his high-powered job and stay home to care for their baby, Horatio, so she can continue with her career. It would seem to be a win-win situation. But when Felicity leaves their New York condo to go to the west coast, where her show is filmed, Russell can't handle the child alone. So he shows up at Melinda's apartment begging for help.

Through an almost comical set of circumstances, Lauren; her husband, Leo; their three children; Lauren's mother, Evelyn; Leo's biological father, Phillip; Olivia; her father, Dan; and even Melinda end up caring for Horatio when both Russell and Felicity go missing. They aren't missing as in "where did they go?" but rather "we have other things to do and the baby comes second."

We slowly grow to care for these very different characters, and when they each go through a kind of crisis, we are rooting for them. Poeppel accomplishes what she has set out to do, which in my opinion is to show that family comes from people you choose, not necessarily those you were born into. And the most quirky of us still deserve respect. Leo is a goofy guy and loves to be silly, but we like him a lot more than Lauren's stuffy brother and sister-in-law, who look down their noses at the rest of the family.

Many of these characters grow and change, including Evelyn, whose metamorphosis is as beautiful as it is touching. The start is a bit slow as Poeppel introduces us to everyone and their backstory, but stick with it. It's all necessary, and it leads to a lovely story and a perfect conclusion. When you turn the last page, your heart will feel a bit fuller, and you will be happy that you made the acquaintance of this different kind of family.

Reviewed by Pamela Kramer on February 3, 2023

The Sweet Spot
by Amy Poeppel

  • Publication Date: January 31, 2023
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
  • ISBN-10: 1982176458
  • ISBN-13: 9781982176457