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The Ladies' Lending Library    by Janice Kulyk Keefer order for
Ladies' Lending Library
by Janice Kulyk Keefer
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2007 (2007)
* * *   Reviewed by Joan Burton

It is the summer of 1963 and Sonia Martyn and her family and friends, a group of Ukrainian Canadians, are enjoying cottage life on Georgian Bay. For years the same individuals have been leaving Toronto behind for the summer to laze away the days. The husbands work in the city all week and head north for the weekends. The women are kept busy with the routine of taking care of the children and enjoying each other's company.

They have started a reading group where they trade racy books to read at night while the children sleep. They discuss the book, gossip, drink gin, and dream. This summer, Cleopatra is the hot topic, along with Liz Taylor's love affair with Richard Burton. Their own world has secrets too and the summer of '63 will change everyone.

Sonia, a former fashion model, mourns the death of her mother while trying to raise her four young daughters. She reflects back to her single days and often wonders if she made the right choice of husband and family over career. Darka, just sixteen years old, has come to the cottage to help Sonia with her girls. Sonia consented to watch over Darka for the summer and supervise her social life, something Darka's mother thinks is out of control. Before the summer is over Darka finds herself involved with a married man and learns lessons about life and the strong bonds of marriage.

Sonia's brother Peter is married to Zirka, with two boys. They look upon Peter as a failure, as he goes from job to job and never takes life seriously. Zirka knows that Peter has always had feelings for Nadia, going back to their teen years. Nadia is married to Jack, a millionaire. They have the best cottage on the hill, fancy cars, and fast boats. But even with this lifestyle Nadia is not happy. She longs for something more. Did she make the right choice, Jack over Peter?

As the summer comes to an end everyone is looking forward to the big party Nadia and Jack throw every year. There is always lots of food, drink and dancing. This year the theme is Cleopatra, and on the night of the party Sonia discovers a secret that soon will have everyone questioning their feelings and relationships. Do we take happiness where we can or endure life as we are living it?

The summer of '63 was a time of secrets and truths, discoveries and change. The women are torn between two worlds, the one they are living and the one that could have been. The Ladies' Lending Library tells of a summer to remember.

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