Restless In L.A. by Robin Finn Showcases the Growing Pains of Family and Marriage
Restless in L.A. by Robin Finn is a novel told through the eyes of a middle-aged woman who wears a number of hats. Alex Hoffman is a devoted mother who struggles with dividing her attention between a daughter who is quickly creeping into tweendom, the baby of the family who needs love and attention and a son with ADHD who can be a handful on the easiest of days. She’s a loving wife who feigns understanding of her husband’s commitment to his job, which takes him from her early and lets him off late. She's also a former writer who has lost herself and her craft along the way of growing a family. She alleviates the weight of her family through her friendships, her life coach, and through her anonymous online blog. Underneath the frenzy of soccer practices, PTA meetings, and reheated dinners, Alex starts to lose grip on reality and finds herself diving into the past for the answers to the future. Her search leads her to a long lost boyfriend’s Facebook page, and before she knows it the connection is reestablished with the click of the “Friend Request” button. Little does she know that reopening these closed doors is going to take her on a sentimental rollercoaster that will challenge her feelings on love, family, and self-worth.
Matt Daniels was a one-year fling with a 20-year gap for Alex, but when she uncovers her journal from the time she spent with him in London, memories of forgotten feelings float to the surface of her mind. She reminisces on a fiery and passionate romance that challenged her to push boundaries and take risks, and it reminds her of how good it felt to be with him. A friend request becomes a message, a conversation becomes a rendezvous, and a relationship forgotten by time slowly rekindles the flame that had gone out decades ago. Faced with a moral dilemma that could change her life forever, Alex puts herself in a position of maintaining the delicate balance of a family who needs her and a relationship she wants for herself.
The story has a very natural flow that helps the reader to understand how the main character is feeling. Alex’s blog posts hint at the growing frustration that she suffers through daily with her family, her friends, and now her lover. Finn uses the excerpts from Alex’s old journal to set up the background for her memories as the story fades between the present and the past. The memories guide the reader to understand how deep Alex’s passions go, showcasing how invincible and loved she had felt with Matt when they first dated. The occasional format change between her present life, her blog, her old journal, and her memories allow for a deep understanding of the character from different points of focus, which helps the story to develop beautifully.
The emphasis on being a parent of a child with special needs is a key theme that rears its head occasionally through the book, providing Alex with a sense of perspective as she juggles all her responsibilities. There is a difficult balance to be managed with three kids, and the addition of Ryan’s ADHD and Natalie’s changing into tweenhood just throws extra wrenches into the mix that can drive a parent crazy. Although she loves her kids unconditionally, it is clear to see that one of the main sources of her frustration is with her children and trying to give them each the attention they desire.
Finn’s novel is an excellent read for parents who understand the growing pains and sometimes heartaches that come from having a family. The novel touches on problems with parenthood, unresolved relationships and searching for happiness in a messy world, especially in this microcosm that is Los Angeles. Restless in L.A. is an emotional story that attacks the senses and wrenches the heart with every page, making for a compelling novel that is hard to put down.