“Off Balance” by Terez Mertes Rose

I was going to take a break from posting reviews for a couple of days, in order to avoid burning myself and everyone else out, but in a stunning display of my basic nature as an over-achiever, I just pledged to read and review 200 books on Goodreads this morning.  Whether that was an act of unrealistic hubris  or completely justified self-confidence will be revealed in the coming months.  Meanwhile I guess I’d better get on with it.

I received a review copy of “Outside the Limelight,” the second book in this series, and I liked it so much that I went out and bought this, the first book in the series.  In it we meet Alice, a former dancer who was forced to retire from the stage and switch to administration after being hit with a terrible injury just as her career was really starting to take off, and Lana, who has just been hired by WCBT as a soloist and is struggling to adjust to leaving her family behind and moving from Kansas City to San Francisco.  The relationship between the women starts off rocky, but they find themselves helping each other through hard times when no one else seems to be able to stand by them.

The author is a former dancer herself, and there is plenty of dance-related detail for those of us who enjoy that kind of thing, but at its heart this is a story about mothers and daughters and growing up and friendship between women.  Alice and Lana are both multi-dimensional, struggling characters who undergo major metamorphoses over the course of the book, as they learn to face their own issues and gain some understanding for those around them who are dealing with different things (e.g., Lana is from a close-knit but poor Midwestern family and had to work as a maid to pay for her ballet shoes, while Alice has always been comfortably off but lost her mother as a child).  The book straddles the line between genre and literary fiction, and, in my opinion, embodies the best of both worlds: while it’s comparatively short and written in a simple, straightforward prose style, it also explores complex internal and interpersonal dynamics.  I found it a quick, easy read with plenty of “candy” in the form of descriptions of handsome men and gorgeous dance productions, but it’s still a wholesome, nourishing dish, not mental junk food.  A really enjoyable read that I would recommend to anyone interested in reading “women’s fiction,” romance, “dance lit,” or just a fun, entertaining book.

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