Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Skipping A Beat

Publisher's Summary. What would you do if your husband suddenly wanted to rewrite all of the rules of your relationship? This is the question at the heart of Skipping a Beat, Pekkanen's thought-provoking second book.

From the outside, Julia and Michael seem to have it all. Both products of difficult childhoods in rural West Virginia – where they were simply Julie and Mike – they become high school sweethearts and fall in love. Shortly after graduation, they flee their small town to start afresh. Now thirty-somethings, they are living a rarified life in their multi-million-dollar, Washington D.C. home. Julia is a highly sought-after party planner, while Michael has just sold his wildly successful flavored water company for $70 million.

But one day, Michael collapses in his office. Four minutes and eight seconds after his cardiac arrest, a portable defibrillator jump-starts his heart. But in those lost minutes he becomes a different man. Money is meaningless to him - and he wants to give it all away. Julia, who sees bits of her life reflected in scenes from the world's great operas, is now facing with a choice she never anticipated. Should she should walk away from the man she once adored – but who truthfully became a stranger to her long before this pronouncement - or give in to her husband's pleas for a second chance and a promise of a poorer but happier life?

As wry and engaging as her debut, but with quiet depth and newfound maturity, Skipping a Beat is an unforgettable portrait of a marriage whose glamorous surface belies the complications and betrayals beneath.

Review. Second chances are what we all crave at one time or another. In Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen, Michael Dunhill, after dying for 4:08 minutes, is given a second chance at life. But is it too little too late?

Before his near death experience Dunhill, founder and CEO of DrinkUp, a 70 million dollar beverage company, was always chasing the latest idea to expand his corporate empire and enrich his wealth. Along the way Dunhill took some questionable shortcuts. Additionally, Dunhill’s marriage to high school sweetheart Julia has moved in an inverse direction to the success of DrinkUp; to the point where the couple is more like roommates than husband and wife. As Julia reflects:

By the time my husband collapsed at work, he and I hadn’t talked – I mean really talked, one of our all-night heart-to hearts – in years, which is crazy, because talking was all we used to do . . . .

Now when I mentally trace the trajectory of our relationship – and I’ve had plenty of time to do it, lots of silent evenings alone in our home – I realize there wasn’t a sharp breaking point or single furious argument that set us on our current path.

After Dunhill’s Lazarus-like return from the dead, he decides to give away his fortune and start anew with wife Julia. She, understandably, has trouble with the new Michael and is ambivalent as to whether to remain in the marriage. Julia agrees, however, to give Michael three weeks before making a decision. The remainder of the plot details these pivotal three weeks.

Skipping a Beat, told from Julia’s point-of-view, is a thoughtful novel that sweats the details. By that I mean the author delves into a myriad of topics, including opera, Fibonacci numbers, and the beverage industry, to enrich the narrative. She has done her research and it shows! My primary criticism of the novel is that it would have benefitted from alternating the point-of-view to include Michael as I had difficulty appreciating Michael’s eleventh hour change. Another minor criticism is that the character, Noah, seems like a one dimensional plot device.

Overall, however, Skipping a Beat is a realistic depiction of a modern marriage that restores one’s faith in the power to change.


  1. Great review. I have seen this book at the library and I have been curious

  2. I loved this book and think it would have been a different story if we'd heard Michael's point of view too. I cried like a baby at the end.

  3. Okay, probably one I'll skip, especially because of the crying comment above. I do hope they stay together and are happy again.

  4. Such a good book. Like bermudaonion said above, I also bawled my eyes out on this one. I see what you mean about Noah, and I think it would have been intriguing to get Michael's thoughts as well. But, I still loved this book! Crying and all :)