Walking on Trampolines By Frances Whiting
337 pages, 2013, Gallery Books
When Tallulah de Longland wakes up with an epic hangover and her high school sweetheart, Joshua Keaton, it takes her a moment realize that the wedding she hazily remembers was not her own. The groom in her bed is not her groom. The bride, who is now pounding on the hotel room door, is actually Lulu’s childhood best friend, Annabelle Andrews. In an instant, Lulu’s “good girl” image is shattered.
The eccentric, artistic Andrews family moved to Juniper Bay, a small coastal Australian town, in the middle of Lulu’s seventh grade year. Annabelle staked her claim as Lulu’s best friend on day one, pushing Lulu’s other friends aside and demanding unerring loyalty. From that moment forward, the girls were inseparable.
Annabelle and Lulu share everything – their hopes and dreams, first loves, family secrets, and even their own language. When Annabelle betrays Lulu on the day of their high school graduation, Lulu is devastated. Annabelle and Josh move on, and Lulu, numb with grief, seeks comfort in the familiar. Lulu guards her heart carefully, content to watch the years march by behind a desk at her father’s plumbing business.
When Lulu is twenty-two, her parents take a stand, insisting that she get on with her life. Lulu reluctantly moves to Sydney and finds work as a personal assistant to Duncan McAllister, one of the best-known talk show hosts in the country. An unlikely friendship develops, with Lulu softening Duncan’s roughest edges and Duncan seizing every opportunity to push Lulu out of her comfort zone.
Josh and Annabelle blow into town, and Lulu realizes that she hasn’t really moved on at all. She forgives Annabelle, and reestablishes a friendship with the couple, a path leading directly to revenge and regret.
While Annabelle and Lulu’s friendship is the backbone of the novel, it is just one small part of Lulu’s bigger story. Lulu, with all of her quirks and insecurities, is the heartbeat of this book. She is such a likeable character, I found myself rooting for her and laughing and crying with her. Reading her story was like spending time with a new-found friend.
One of Whiting’s strengths is her ability to write beautifully flawed characters that leap from the page, drawing readers into their world. From Lulu’s offbeat mother, Rose, who suffers from depression, makes and names all of her own dresses to crass Duncan, who hides his generous and loving nature behind his larger-than-life persona, I enjoyed getting to know each of them in turn. Even Barney, Duncan’s giant dog with questionable dietary habits, takes his place as a fully realized character in Lulu’s story.
At first glance, I expected Walking on Trampolines to be fairly typical “chick lit,” but it really is so much more. Author Frances Whiting has penned a lovely coming-of-age story about friendship, family and mother-daughter relationships. It is by turns funny, insightful and touching. This book is a perfect vacation read, so be sure to add it to your list this summer!
Heather Holley-Hall is Alamance County Public Libraries’ Associate Director of Operations. She may be reached at 336-570-6730 or firstname.lastname@example.org.