Kate Christensen’s Trouble commences with an epiphany at a Christmas party. Emerging lucidly and decisively out of a boozy moment, 40-something Josie has a sudden realization that she wants to divorce her husband. Deciding to start anew, she takes proactive steps to restructure her life.
Her rush of anticipation to meet the future is wonderfully contagious for the reader. The reconsidering of life choices usually consists of bumbling, lengthy agonizing. Instead, it’s inspiring to watch Josie’s way: confident without being untouchable, ponderous without being tiresome. She’s sure that she’s ready to change her life, and proceeds accordingly. After telling her stolid husband she’s leaving him, Josie accompanies her BFF Raquel on an adventure. Raquel too is attempting a new chapter, albeit a more haunted one. She’s a famous singer who’s fallen on troubled times, namely a very public, over-reported mess of a relationship. In need of escape, the two head to Mexico. The bond between the friends is perfectly felt — nuanced, intimate, believable to the point that you’d go for drinks with them in a heartbeat. Their friendship is the center of the book: witty repartee and I-know-you-better-than-you-know-youself advice.
Lasting but a few days, their trip sustains that indulgent thrill of traveling and of seeing anew. The Mexican specialty foods, historical sites, city topography, and regional art really color the setting. It’s a pleasure for the reader to vacation vicariously with Josie and Raquel’s companionship. When the escapade darkens, it’s a swift and stark change by comparison.
The forty-something woman can be awkward territory, since this age group seems to get all the wrong kinds of attention: ridicule (Real Housewives) or parody (enough, Carrie Bradshaw). It is a testament to Christensen that she has created a stable, intelligent yet lighthearted character. Christensen honors the phrase “ageing gracefully” — while flat-out ignoring the stuffy sense of decorum implied — by creating someone who is unwaveringly poised. While older characters tend to bask in regret and nostalgia, Josie lets her needs (sexual, psychological) play out more vibrantly than ever.