Review: 3 generations of women star in ‘The Spectacular’

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This cover photo, published by Ballantine, shows “The Spectacular” by Zoe Whittall. (Ballantine via AP)

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“The Spectacular” by Zoe Whittall (Ballantine)

Zoe Whittall’s “The Spectacular” accompanies three generations of women on their way through love, life and motherhood.

It’s 1997, and Missy is a 22-year-old rock star struggling with drug addiction. She is determined to party like the male members of her band, but she can’t think of anything worse than getting pregnant on tour – and she will do everything possible to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Carola is the mother who left a young Missy to live in a yoga center where she is embroiled in a sex scandal. And Ruth is Missy’s Turkish grandmother, who wants nothing more than that Missy becomes a mother and her estranged daughter and granddaughter reconcile.

The second half of the book jumps into 2013. Now divorced and longing for a child, we follow Missy as she tries to get pregnant and find love while working to mend her relationship with Carola.

“The Spectacular” pays homage to femininity, motherhood, sexuality and queerness and tells the life of three grimly strong protagonists who are very different from one another. The first half is full of action, drama, energy and excitement. The characters are beautifully flawed and so vivid that they all crawl through life in search of happiness.

In the second half this energy is lost a little. Missy is older, no longer touring, and is desperate to have a baby while working to mend her relationship with her own mother. Your navigation of love and fertility in her late 30s is an important story, but the shift feels a little abrupt. However, once you get used to the time jump, it becomes a compelling exploration of what happens as we get older and are still desperate for what we want.


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