Someone Else's Shoes

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I was glad when this book was chosen because I've felt like I needed to read Jojo Moyes for a while.  I even discovered, after finishing the book, that it was on my "want to read" list.  I did enjoy the reading (large print and Kindle versions) and the bit of audio I listened to near the end.  I could see this story as a RomCom on the big screen - although there is not a whole lot of Rom, there is a bit.  It would be one of those movies that you keep checking your watch because you think it must be almost over - nothing else can happen, right?  Wrong!  More twists, and more twists, and then a bit of wrap up, and then a bit more.  You'd definitely get your money's worth in a theatre.  

As a book, though - there were a lot of little things that bugged me, especially in the beginning.  I did settle into it but one thing that continued to bother me was how the American character with her distinctly American accent used British words.  She was only temporarily in England, so I think she still would've said "fight" instead of "row".  Especially because she came from a life of privilege and felt a bit entitled, so why would she change her vocabulary instead of just expecting everyone to bow down and understand her.  (And speaking of British English, I wasn't sure what to do with the printed word "whingeing" and was glad to hear on the audio that it's pronounced as in win jing.) (Ch. 23, ePg. 262)

On a scale of 1 - 5:

Sex:  3

Religion:  1

Gruesome:  0  

Suspense:  1

Morality:  2

Traditional: 4

Sex - a wife's mental musings of marital sex-life in vague terms.  Describes husband as "reliably - sometimes annoyingly - libidinous" and references "Morning attentions she was obliged to give him". (Ch. 6, LPg. 72)  Ref. to sex toys. (Ch. 14, LPg. 165) A mother tells her grown daughter about her husband's (the father's) blue pills because of "penis troubles" (Ch. 15, ePg. 142)  A woman analyzes her body. (Ch. 15, LPg. 184) A woman remembers her husband grabbing her bottom. (Ch. 15, LPg. 185) Mentions of a "hoo-ha", bedroom activities, porn-stars and pubic hair. (Ch. 19, ePg. 202)  A couple gets intimate. (Ch. 31, LPg. 453)  A "Bachelor" style hook-up, behind the closed door.  A couple is intimate, but details are sketchy. (Ch. 36, LPg. 516)

Religion - Sam's parents are involved in their church. (Ch. 23, ePg. 255)  Nisha pleads with an "unknown deity." (Ch. 30, LPg. 426)  Later she thanks God.

Gruesome - 

Suspense - what was special about the shoes that Carl wanted. (end Ch. 17)

Morality - a list of several ways men have been sexually inappropriate with a female character. (Ch. 19, ePg. 202)  A character reconsiders her actions when confronted with how they will affect others.  Characters are friendly and helpful to someone who is difficult to like.

Traditional - Sam knows the names of her workmates' "partners" (Ch. 5, LPg. 53) instead of saying "spouses". There is one female character who casually mentions having her "wife's" keys (Ch. 23, ePg. 261).  It's subtle, and this appears to be the only gay relationship although one character's son does seem to be gay. (Ch. 2, LPg. 20)  Confirmation that son is gay. (Ch. 27)  Hints that the son overdosed, which is referred to as the "incident". (Ch. 27)

I was disappointed that Nisha, after having experienced poverty and having made real friends, quickly reverted to her old ways in Ch. 25.  In the taxi, in Ch. 26, she had a moment where I thought she was going to start redemption but she quickly shifted back to being a snot again.  I didn't realize until Ch. 29, when I was listening to the audio, that Dr. Kovits sounded like covid.  Also, the reader's voice for the doctor at first sounded feminine and I was confused for a bit as to Dr. Kovits' gender.

More things that bothered me:

Every time I heard the Frobisher's name, it reminded me of "Christmas With the Kranks" based on John Grisham's novel "Skipping Christmas".  I did appreciate the view from the other side that Dr. Kovitz led Phil to at the end of Ch. 29.  I wish more people would use this strategy in daily life to give others the benefit of the doubt.

Moyes does have a talent of on-point descriptions of the feelings of middle-aged women:

Discussion Questions

When we first meet Sam, she is attempting to center herself before she gets up in the morning. (Ch. 1, ePg. 3)  What is on your mental gratitude list?  With whom do you have imaginary arguments?  What is your f***-it-and-get-up time?

Sam wondered if she was "letting down the using sex as a weapon" . (Ch. 3, ePg. 27)  Did you think she was using her feminine wiles when she donned the power shoes?  Her male co-workers tell stories about their sisters or wives talking about periods or showing bras in order to get in or out of things.  (Ch. 3, ePg. 27)  What female excuses have you ever used?

Have you ever had a piece of clothing or jewelry that gave you confidence?

Nisha observes that "women trade compliments or troubles like currency.  Women smile understandingly at your confidences, then use them against you like weapons.  Men she finds predictable...You behave a certain way, a man responds in a way that is manageable.  She understand the rules of this game." (Ch. 6, ePg. 47)  Do you agree with Nisha's assessment of women and men?  It's ironic, then, that she couldn't manage her husband's actions against her.  Why did she not see it coming?

Would anyone like to share their experiences with depression - yours or someone else's?  It's hard to understand if you haven't experienced it, but sometimes sharing can help.

"How many of the decisions you make each day are because you actually want to do something , and how many are to avoid the consequences of not doing it?" (Ch. 9, ePg. 89)

The camper van sat in Sam's yard and every time she saw it, it was a frustration. (Ch. 9, ePg. 90) Do you have a (symbolic) camper van?

Were you surprised at Nisha's background? (Ch. 10, ePg. 101)
Were you surprised the gym was closed? (Ch. 11, ePg. 106)
Were you surprised that Phil went to the therapist, or that he went back? (Ch. 12, ePg. 121)
Were you surprised that Nisha kissed Aleks? (Ch. 22, ePg. 252)

One of the lawyers Nisha spoke to suggested that Carl was having an affair with his assistant.  (Ch. 13, ePg. 122)
Did you think the lawyer was right?

Was there any significance to the male names being short (Phil and Carl are both 4 letters) and both ending in "l"?  

Nisha realized she was invisible in her uniform. (Ch. 13, ePg. 127)  How good are you at seeing the service people?

Sam sees sex as "the lubrication of their marriage". (Ch. 15, LPg. 185)  Do you agree?

Aleks told Nisha, if she can't change her situation, then she must change how she thinks about it.  (Ch. 17, LPg. 217)  When have you needed this advice?

Can you relate to Nisha's feelings that it took an "endless effort just to stay married: keep your figure, create a perfect home environment, be interesting, have great hair every day (but none anywhere else), wear shoes that make your feet hurt, lacy underwear that cuts your hoo-ha in two, make sure your bedroom antics are porn-star level (even if your husband seems to think the act of getting a hard on should be enough for his side). (Ch. 19, ePg. 202)  What things are on your must-do list for having a secure marriage?

Did you believe that Nisha's son, Ray, was really at boarding school? (Ch. 19, ePg. 208)  There were several questionable descriptions about dorm managers, girls throwing up, and a psychiatrist (Ch. 22, LPg. 309 & 311) but Nisha continued to call it a school.

Does your husband have any rules for how you dress?  Or preferences?  (Ch. 19, LPg. 248)

Sam hadn't told Phil about the possibility of her getting fired because she wasn't sure he was "up to" the conversation. (Ch. 20, ePg. 227)  Do you ever hold back because you or your partner isn't up to a conversation?

Were you surprised about Phil's revelation regarding his dad's death? Did it justify the depression?  What would you have done if it were your father? (Ch. 20)

How did Ray's explanation that the shoes were fake change your perception of the situation?  (Ch. 21, LPg. 314)

Sam observes that women in "their late forties and fifties, [are] all survivors, of death, divorce, disease, trauma". (Ch. 23, ePg. 259)  What are you a survivor of?  Miriam observes that the best thing about menopause, "is that you genuinely don't give a fuck any more when you're dealing with" certain types of men. (Ch. 23, ePg. 262).  Have you reached that age yet?  What, with age, do you not care about as much and are glad of it?

In Chapter 25, it seems that Nisha hasn't grown as a character because she quickly reverts back to her old ways.  How did you feel about her actions?

Is it realistic that Sam, in the chaos of after lunch with Miriam, forgets completely about Miriam's offer?  Or, when she finally does recall it, automatically thinks that she's disqualified. (Ch. 25)

Nisha thinks that all relationships, even marriages, are transactional.  Do you agree with her?

Chapters 30 & 31 read like a movie script.  Who would you cast in the main roles?

Discuss the opposing story lines that Nisha lost everything but found friends and love.  Sam had friends and love but lost them.
How symbolic is it that the break-in wrecks the house like Sam's life is wrecked? (Ch. 34, LPg. 490)  Is it significant that it was Nisha who reflected on the shatters?

If you were Juliana, would you have done the favor?  Or even returned the text or answered the phone. (Ch. 33)

Cat is 19.  Why did Sam not want her to see the house after the burglary? (Ch. 34)

Sam reflects on special moments that, at the time, you don't realize will be the last time. (Ch. 35, LPg. 508) If you could choose to know, which "last time" moments would you want advanced notice for?

Why did you think Sam ran off when she saw Carl before the meeting in the hotel lobby? (Ch. 36, LPg. 522)

What did you think was in the bags that Nisha gave Aleks before she went to the airport? (Ch. 38, ePg. 428)

Theme Ideas

Serve poke bowls, like the "yummy mummies" were going to get after the gym. (Ch. 1, ePg. 4)
Serve jam doughnuts like Sam's co-workers had for her in the van after the gym. (Ch. 1, ePg. 7)
Serve cheap sandwich cookies like Nisha eats in the hotel room. (Ch. 6, LPg. 73)
At the breakfast buffet, Nisha had tomatoes, scrambled eggs, hash browns, banana and cheese squares in plastic. (Ch. 8, LPgs. 95-6)
Serve sandwiches like Aleks made for the staff: 

Serve pains aux raisins and croissants like when Nisha followed Jasmine into the back of the hotel. (Ch. 10, LPg. 124)
Serve Victoria Sandwich Cake like Phil's mum taught refugees to make. (Ch. 12, LPg. 150)
Serve eggs benedict like Aleks made Nisha after she threw a fit in the kitchen. (end Ch. 14, LPg. 175)
Serve  "chicken pie, mash  and greens" and wine like Sam made trying to help Phil feel better and re-connect with him after visiting her parents. (Ch. 15, LPg. 183)
Serve duck, like Aleks gave Sam.
Serve  "lamb stew...fluffy white rice and greens." (Ch. 16, LPg. 201)
Wild mushroom omelete with fines herbs like Aleks made for Nisha. (Ch. 16, LPg. 193)
Cat ate rice cakes when she arrived home one evening but Sam wasn't home and her dad was in bed. (Ch. 20, ePg. 221)
Serve lasagna like Phil and Cat were eating when Sam got home after boxing. (Ch. 20, ePg. 225)
Serve tortilla chips like when Nisha told Jasmine her back story. (Ch. 21, LPg. 303)
Serve salad, vegetarian tarts, and fish, like Miriam and Sam had at lunch. (Ch. 23, ePg. 258)
Serve sticky buns as Sam and Andrea enjoyed after the doctor's appointment. (Ch. 28)
Serve pancakes, bacon and omelets like Aleks tried to serve before the caper.  (Ch. 30, LPg. 428-9)
After the caper, the girls were at Jasmine's and consumed: Prosecco, chips, Doritos, dip and fries.
Serve roast chicken and all the trimmings like Sam did at the end. (Ch. 38, LPg. 544)

Make paper logs like Sam's parents. (Ch. 15, ePg. 138)
Play Words with Friends like Sam played while waiting. (Ch. 18, LPg. 229)
Play Sloth Bingo. (Ch. 20, ePg. 221)

Give guests travel size Nivea face cream, so they can have good skin like Sam. (Ch. 34, LPg. 493)

Decorate with blue hydrangeas like Nisha sees in Chelsea and imagines having once she is back on her feet. (Ch. 8, LPg. 97)
Decorate with "arthuriums", "the ungodly flowers". (Ch. 23, ePg. 255) Note, I think the actual name is anthuriums - not sure if it is a typo in the book.