Summary and book reviews of A False Sense of Well Being by Jeanne Braselton

A False Sense of Well Being

By Jeanne Braselton

A False Sense of Well Being
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  • Hardcover: Oct 2001,
    352 pages.
    Paperback: Oct 2002,
    368 pages.

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Book Summary

"I was married eleven years before I started imagining how different life could be if my husband were dead. . . ."

At thirty-eight, Jessie Maddox subscribes to House Beautiful, Southern Living, even Psychology Today. She has a comfortable life in Glenville, Georgia, with Turner, the most reliable, responsible husband in the world. But after the storybook romance, "happily ever after" never came. Now the housewife who once wanted to be Martha Stewart before there was a Martha Stewart is left to wonder: Where did the marriage go wrong? Why can't she stop picturing herself as the perfect grieving widow?

As Jessie dives headlong into her midlife crisis, she is aided and abetted by a colorful cast of characters in the true Southern tradition: her best friend and next door neighbor Donna, who is having a wild adulterous affair with a younger man; Wanda McNab, the sweater-knitting, cookie-baking grandmother who is charged with killing her abusive husband. Then there's Jessie's eccentric family. Her younger sister Ellen, born to be a guest on Jerry Springer, has taken her seven-year-old son and squawking pet birds and left her husband "for good this time" . . . while their mother crosses the dirty words out of library books and alerts everyone to the wonderful bargains at Winn-Dixie, often at the same time. And then there's the stuffed green headless duck . . .

When a trip home to the small town of her childhood raises more questions than it answers, Jessie is forced to face the startling truth head-on--and confront the tragedy that has shadowed her heart and shaken her faith in love . . . and the future.

From a brilliant new voice in fiction, here is a darkly comic novel full of revelation and insight. The danger of secrets and the power of confession . . . The pull of family, no matter how crazy. . . The fate of wedlock when one can't find the key . . . Jeanne Braselton weaves these potent themes into a funny, poignant, utterly engaging story of a woman at the crossroads--and the unforgettable journey she must take to get back home.

CHAPTER ONE

Dear friends in Christ,
here in the presence of Almighty God, let us kneel in silence, and with
penitent and obedient hearts confess our sins,
so that we may obtain forgiveness
by his infinite goodness and mercy.


CONFESSION OF SIN
THE BOOK OF COMMON PRAYER


I was married eleven years before I started imagining how different life could be if my husband were dead. Beginning that year, and not, to my recollection, prompted by any overt unkindness or sudden disruption of affection, images of random damage, of events more simple and unpredictable than murder, invaded my dreams both sleeping and awake. The more I tried not to think about it, to purge these worrisome ideas out of my head, the louder my unconscious mind wailed. When I woke in the sheet-twisted dark and found myself pasted to the body of my very real husband, his whimpering snore as high-pitched as a cat's, it was a bitter comfort. The familiar smell of him on the pillows, a pungent ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The novel opens with Jessie Maddox having fantasies of her husband's untimely death, either by fate or by accident. What has happened in her life to cause this? What do you think she would do, and how would she react, if her fantasies were to come true? Do you ever have similar thoughts about those you love? If so, examine the way your innermost thoughts often conflict with what you believe you want in life.
     
  2. Jessie is the one telling her story. What are the strengths and weaknesses of Jessie's first-person narration? Do you think she's able to remain objective when discussing her unhappiness, or when describing her family and friends? How would the novel be different if it were narrated by her husband Turner...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
Author Blurb Kaye Gibbons, author of Ellen Foster
Simply extraordinary. A False Sense of Well-Being has the wit and modern comedy of Nora Ephron and the literary force of Flannery O'Connor.

Author Blurb Lee Smith, author of Saving Grace
I thoroughly and absolutely loved this novel. . . . Well structured, well paced, outrageously funny but deadly serious, A False Sense of Well-Being hits a nerve‚Äďa literary work that has the possibility of being very popular, especially with women. Braselton is an astute social commentator with a remarkable and accomplished debut. She has a genius for the offhand comment that cuts right to the core of life. Gutsy, moving, and memorable.

Author Blurb Anne Rivers Siddons
This may be the best first novel I've ever read.

Booklist - Michele Leber

With characters who touch the heart and dialogue that rings true, Braselton does a masterful job of telling Jessie's story in this warm, moving, and remarkably accomplished first novel.

Library Journal

A middle-aged wife has a midlife crisis. No surprises there, but Jessie Maddox's case is a bit twisted she finds herself imagining various creative ways to do in her husband. An extraordinarily well-blurbed first novel.

Publishers Weekly

Braselton's depiction of the plight of restless women and her brilliant descriptions of sheltered suburbia and smalltown life are delivered with scathing wit.

Reader Reviews
Kim Stalling

I so agree with Mary Sullivan on her review of this book. My friend recommended the book and even said it reminded her of a book the two of us would write, so I jumped in with much enthusiasm only to be sorely disappointed.
"Dull" is the ...   Read More

Mary R Sullivan

I found this book dull, unbelievable, and depressing. The main character is shallow and the others are unsympathetic
caricatures. I kept reading it with the hope that it would get better, that the dialogue would become less stilted and
affected, ...   Read More

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