A Page Out of Life by Kathleen Reid is, at its core, the story of frazzled mother of four Ashley Gates. As the book opens, we get an instant snapshot of Ashley's lifestyle - stained t-shirt and sweatpants, unkempt hair, frequent silent promises to herself to improve, and nerves stretched to here - "a caricature of her former self". Constant demands from family have taken priority over any time for herself. I must admit that several of Ashley's scenes of self-doubt and horror at "what have I become??" made me feel a little uncomfortable, for hitting a little TOO close to home.
"...Ashley felt embarrassed by her inability to transform herself or her house into something special. There was a time when she'd considered herself incredibly organized and chic, but her present surroundings seemed as scattered as she now felt. You've got to pull yourself together, she thought miserably as her mother's words echoed inside her mind."
"Nothing was as it should have been: her house, her figure, her marriage. She felt utterly alone and embarrassed by her inability to figure a way out of the rut she was in. She was so tired she felt she would drop."
When Ashley calls her girlfriend Megan for a little "retail therapy", Megan suggests they also stop by to meet her scrapbooking friends. The scrapbooking group meets weekly at each others' to work on their albums. While Ashley doesn't believe she's very good at "the arts-and-crafts thing", she agrees to stop by one of the meetings. Eventually she begins going to the weekly sessions.
The book also follows the stories of the other scrapbooking women: Tara, a single grad student whose history with an absentee father colors her current search for love; and Libby, a semi-retired teacher who must deal with the shocking disillusionment after her son is charged in a corporate scandal.
Each scrapbooking session becomes therapy, as each woman in the group works through her personal crises with the help of sisterhood and crafts. The dialogue in the book is very similar to what you might hear at a scrapbooking crop, and will make any scrapbooking reader feel right at home. As each woman works on her pictures and albums, she shares details from her life, and the other women provide support and feedback that help her find her way. I loved that aspect of the book - that female friendship can provide a support network that can be immeasurably valuable. That was probably the biggest thing I took away from the book - a reminder of how much I value my own group of scrapbooking friends, and that I need to make it a priority to attend our meetings, as an investment in myself.
Overall, A Page Out of Life evokes a wonderful sense of "Will she, or won't she?"
Will Ashley be able to rediscover herself and her passions in life?
Will Libby be able to cope with life after her son's fall from grace?
Will Tara succumb to her decadent desires, conveniently forgetting her own family situation?
A Page Out of Life is a fairly quick read, despite its 320 pages - you can find the answers to these questions in a weekend!