Title: The Unexpected Waltz by Kim Wright
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
From the author of the critically acclaimed debut Love in Mid Air comes this moving novel about a middle-aged widow who finds her feet by embracing a new hobby: ballroom dancing.
Kelly Wilder becomes recently widowed from a much older wealthy man with whom she spent her married life doing charity work, building a lovely home, and, as she says, “pretending to be a whole lot more conservative and stupid and nicer than I really am.”
Now, with too much time and money on her hands, Kelly has absolutely no idea what happens next. So on a whim she signs up for a ballroom dancing class, and slowly, step by high-heeled step, begins to rebuild her life with the help of friends old and new: Nik, a young Russian dance teacher who sees the artistic potential she left behind; Carolina, a woman in hospice, anxious to experience a whole lifetime in a few months; and Elyse, Kelly’s girlhood best friend who knows all of her past secrets—including the truth about the man who long ago broke Kelly’s heart.
In the vein of Jennifer Weiner’s novels, Unexpected Waltz is a deeply felt story about moving on after loss and finding a new walk—or dance—of life through the power of second chances.
The Unexpected Waltz by Kim Wright is a captivating novel of healing and self discovery that is incredibly moving. This touching story is poignant but uplifting and I found myself utterly charmed by Kelly Wilder’s honest reflection of her past, her relationships and her enduring friendship with Elyse, the one person who has been by her side through all of her life’s various ups and downs.
“Nothing has to change.” A statement from one of Kelly’s lawyers as she is wrapping up the final details of her late husband’s estate that continues to reverberate in her mind and eventually becomes the catalyst for her to finally move forward. But it is Kelly’s inadvertent stop in a local ballroom dance studio that brings the biggest changes to her life. With her energies focused on her newfound passion, Kelly finds unexpected friendships with her fellow dancer enthusiasts and as she reflects on the mistakes of her past, she finds the courage to step out of her well-ordered life and fully embrace her future.
Kelly is a wonderfully flawed, imperfect character who has lived a safe, comfortable life. After an affair ends badly, Kelly indulges in string of casual encounters that eventually culminates in her marriage to a much older, wealthy man. She then turns her attentions to creating a beautiful home for her late husband and devotes her time to serving on various charities. Her beautiful tablescapes are a staple of the charitable dinners she attends, but she finds real fulfillment as a volunteer at a local hospice. Sitting by the bedside of the terminally ill, Kelly learns as much about life as she does death and her connection and friendship with cancer patient Carolina adds another dimension to this multi-faceted and likable character.
Much of The Unexpected Waltz takes place in the dance studio and as Kelly learns new dance steps, she finds the confidence that always has been sorely lacking. As she reflects on her sometimes ill-fated decisions, she begins to clearly see where she settled in life instead of taking a chance. Kelly begins the arduous task of learning to speak up and ask for what wants instead of accepting what is given to her. She fully recognizes her failings, regrets not giving more to herself to her marriage and accurately assesses her strengths and weaknesses.
The Unexpected Waltz is a beautifully written novel with a richly developed cast of characters and a unique plot. Kim Wright’s lyrical descriptions of the various dances bring the story vibrantly to life. An engaging and heartfelt novel that I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend.