Title: Out of the Clear Blue Sky
Author: Kristan Higgins
Publication date: June 2022
Format: Audiobook (and “real” book)
Narrators: C.J. Bloom & Xe Sands
Having recently discovered Kristan Higgins, I am now a HUGE fan. A “seven books in one year” fan! So of course, I couldn’t wait to read her newest novel, Out of the Clear Blue Sky.
Higgins’ books often feature a troubled mother/daughter relationship, a bad boy (who really is a good guy), a gorgeous New England setting, and a large, lovable dog. And of course, there is always an element of romance. Out of the Clear Blue Sky does not deviate from this well-received formula.
The story takes place on Cape Cod and follows the story of two women: a wife and her much-younger and richer replacement.
First there is Lillie. Lillie is married to Brad, works as nurse-midwife, and together they have a nearly grown son named Dylan. She believes she is living her best life until her husband unexpectedly dumps her for another woman just as Dylan leaves for college. Rather than being devastated, Lillie gets angry. She plots some acts of revenge that are downright childish (but hilarious!) while trying to rebuild her life and mend some of her other relationships. Lillie is easy to root for, and I enjoyed following her character arc.
Then there is Melissa. Melissa blows into town with loads of money (and her sister’s sullen preteen daughter) and easily steals Brad away from Lillie. Melissa is self-centered and shallow and should be easy to hate. Plus I could’ve done with less of her farting and burping commentary. Yeah, seriously. But her story reveals how she methodically escaped her white trash origins and made something of her life. And although she isn’t a person to admire, there’s at least something there to respect.
Higgins does a nice job bouncing back and forth between the two women’s perspectives (although Lillie definitely gets top billing). Lillie experiences a myriad of emotions (sometimes in the same chapter) that keeps her feeling very real.
In fact, most of the other characters feel real as well (a Higgins’ trademark). They are developed enough to move the story along and help tell the stories of Lillie and Melissa. Perhaps the only exception to this is Brad. As the story progresses, Brad becomes less a real person and more of a caricature of an asshole husband. In fact, it makes me wonder why wholesome organic Lillie would fall for a guy like that.
And while we’re at it let’s talk about Lillie.
There are a few things about her that bugged me though. Lillie lamented about how she wanted to stay married, how much she loved her life as a married woman, and how much she loved her family. But I never really got the sense that she loved her actual husband and wanted to stay with him. It was more like she didn’t want to give up the life that her marriage afforded her.
And the adoration (there’s no other word to describe it) that she has for her son is a little over the top. As a mother of two grown children myself, I could certainly relate to Lillie’s wistful memories of Dylan’s childhood. But she goes on and on about it, as if her sole purpose in life is to be the perfect mother to him. Time to cut the apron strings, Lillie!
All this being said, though, I really did love this novel! I was invested in both characters and their journeys as well as the sacrifices they each had to make to get there. I didn’t want their stories to end!
This was at least the third audiobook by Higgins I listened to that featured Xe Sands. As far as I’m concerned, she could read every single audiobook to me for the rest of my life, and I would never tire of her voice. Her intimate delivery always has real emotion behind the words. As if we were friends sipping wine, chatting about our lives. She narrated the chapters devoted to Lillie.
The narrator for Melissa, however, was a different story. C.J. Bloom’s delivery felt very stilted and over acted. I didn’t feel a warmth, but then again, her voice fit the Melissa character pretty well. I will give Bloom her props for the voices of Melissa’s sister and niece. She nailed that!