When it Happens to You is a smart, fresh, on-the-mark "novel in stories". In eight interrelated tales, Ringwald offers a savvy look into personal relationships in today’s society. While the stories feature contemporary themes, they come across as both modern and timeless. The main characters, Greta, Phillip, and Charlotte, are your typical American family, experiencing the same trials and triumphs that happen to families across the globe everyday. Yet experiencing these through the lens of heartbreaking and redemptive stories makes us understand their daily struggles and temptations. Much like in the Paul Haggis movie Crash, the tales and the characters are interrelated, which I totally loved and think is a major reason why this novel works. The stories could stand alone as sharp and tender life lessons, but when presented as a collective whole, the book truly stands out.
The novel comes full circle as it starts out with Greta, Phillip, and Charlotte embarking on an evening drive to watch the Harvest Moon. The conclusion of this first story serves as an appropriate allegory for the surrounding tales as each brings to light a new character to be examined, pondered, and savored. In the context of Ringwald’s quiet yet powerful language you find yourself fitting the pieces together like a puzzle, discovering how this person connects to either Greta or Phillip or Charlotte. While the basic premises are very elemental and something we can all relate to as we endure the human condition together, the linguistic usage by Ringwald is at once both charming and tragic. Embedded throughout are little nuggets of hope and surprise, and while each character’s soul is exposed with a harsh lens, there are no judgments passed. It is up to the reader to decide how they want to feel about that person. Sometimes you will feel anger. Sometimes you will feel sadness or pity. But you will not be apathetic to anyone by any means.
This book would be perfect for reading groups because the messages it brings are universal and can be related to by anyone. It is really a great conversation starter because it draws on contemporary hot-button issues such as infertility, infidelity, and transgenderism. There is no debate that this book is definitely a winner. Pick up a copy of it once it officially hits the book shelves and experience for yourself the literary talents of Molly Ringwald!