The Honesty Index
on April 18, 2012
Kelly James-Enger has a touch rarely seen in authors; namely, the ability to create characters in her fiction that act and feel like real people we may meet and know in our lives. Fortunately, she has found the time to return to her fiction and write a third novel, The Honesty Index, which contains two such characters. In some ways, it is a continuation of a theme the author first demonstrated in her first novel, Did You Get The Vibe?, tracing two friends' lives and interactions, in alternating chapters. Only now the heroines, Colleen and Renee, are in their 30s, and in the case of Colleen mother of three. The life situations they find themselves in are not unusual- Renee has returned to Chicago when a long term relationship she had been in ends, landing at the door of her best friend from college. Colleen, that friend, on the surface has it all- good husband, three healthy and active children, only she is feeling a bit suffocated by her life revolving almost totally around her kids. Renee, herself with no attachments at the beginning of the novel, is on the rebound from her failed relationship. They try to be there for each other, although sometimes they are not quite speaking the same language. In that setting, Kelly James-Enger goes to work, tracing their lives and relationships through the months following their being reconnected. The book is at times funny, at times a bit sad, and through it all and overall, recognizable, touching and true. It shows Colleen and Renee coping and learning how life is different, and more complicated, for thirty somethings than for college students. As with all her novels, the characters are not stereotypes, but real people managing their lives in the suburban Midwest. Colleen and Renee learn, and grow, through ordinary events, from which they both do learn life lessons- Renee how to believe more in herself, and Colleen how to assert her individuality in her busy, child-centric life. Colleen and Renee feel so real that when the novel ends, I found myself wondering what happens to them, a tremendous tribute to the author's skills. I hope this and other reviews convince people to read Kelly James-Enger's fiction. The title theme is all about honesty, even when painful; fortunately, the brutal truth here is that this is a fine book, set in the modern day, grappling with familiar challenges, and leaving the reader with some universal truths. Let's hope the book sells well, and the busy author continues to make time to express her talents in her fiction.