Careful What You Wish
for by Lucy Finn
(Signet, $6.99, PG) ISBN  0-451-22104-4
****
Okay...I admit it.  I am, first and foremost, an emotional reader.  I can overlook all sorts of flaws and faults in a story if it leaves me feeling happy and satisfied at the end.  If I'm able (and eager) to read a book all at once, rushing to finish before turning in for the night, then my reaction to that book is generally a good one, despite whatever criticisms might be percolating in the back of my mind.  And so it was with Careful What You Wish For by new-to-me author Lucy Finn:  by no means a perfect book, but satisfying nonetheless. 

  Single mom Ravine Potter is in desperate need of a life transformation.  Once a driven and successful real estate lawyer in Philadelphia, she's moved back home to the small town of Noxen, PA to raise her six-month old baby in the bosom of her loving (and extended) family.  Unfortunately, however, Noxen doesn't seem to have much need for driven and successful real estate lawyers, and Ravine is down to her last thousand bucks and perhaps the last vestiges of her sanity as well.  All that changes, however, when her mother appears on her doorstep with an unexpected gift - a diaper genie.  In the process of opening the diaper genie, Ravine pops the cork on an old bottle that had been stuffed into the top of the thing, and out floats Gene...a genie.   

Gene (the genie) informs Ravine that it's no joke; she does indeed have three wishes.  One of them she wastes right away - natch - but then she clues in and realizes that she needs to give a lot of thought to the other two wishes.  These things usually come with strings attached, she notes to Gene, who agrees that wishing for a lot of money generally never works out well.  (As anyone who has seen that E! True Hollywood Story on lottery winners can attest.)  Handily, however, Gene is an accommodating genie and all around nice guy and not opposed to using his magic to assist Ravine in a variety of ways.  Her house is messy?  Abracadabra...clean house.  Hungry?  Presto-chango...gourmet meal for two.  Obnoxiously stinky diaper in a public venue?  That's no challenge for a genie like Gene.  

But since life is all about learning how to get back on your feet and in the swing of things again, the author gives the self-sufficient Ravine some reasons to dust off her law books, deputize her genie, and help her neighbors - from the life-lovin' Buddhists worried about the graffiti on their cows, to Ravine's toothless cousin and her no-good-lying-stealing-husband, to the poor friend of a friend whose dead husband's ashes were stolen by Queen Nefertitty, Exotic Dancer.  It was all more than a bit contrived and heavy handed, but I was having such a good time I simply didn't care.  I went with it.

And perhaps that was the secret to my enjoyment of Careful What You Wish For. From the very start, I was prepared to dislike the book, as I'm not normally a fan of chick-lit books, and this is what the cover suggested lurked within the pages.  I'm also not generally a fan of forced farce and outlandish situations that lean heavily on contrivance and fantasy.  But even though Careful What You Wish For should have annoyed me to no end for any number of reasons, it didn't.  I liked the characters, I liked the writing - after I adjusted to the first-person point-of-view, which I think should be outlawed - and I liked wondering what I would wish for were I ever fortunate enough to find my own genie.  One wish might be for more emotionally satisfying reads like this one.   

And my very own genie named Gene.  

--Jennifer Bergin


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