Title: She Poured Out Her Heart by Jean Thompson
Publisher: Blue Rider Press
Genre: Contemporary, Literary Fiction
Length: 426 pages
Book Rating: C+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Penguin’s First to Read Program
Tracing the complicated friendship of two very different women who meet in college, She Poured Out Her Heart is a novel of remarkable psychological suspense, crafted by National Book Award finalist Jean Thompson.
The night that Jane and Bonnie meet on a college campus sets them on paths forever entwined. Bonnie, the wild and experimental one, always up for anything, has spent the past two decades bouncing between ill-fated relationships, while Jane’s seemingly perfect life, perfect husband, and perfect children have all but materialized out of a fantasy. But these appearances contradict the quiet, inescapable doubt Jane feels about her life. One night, in the middle of her own Christmas party, she steps outside into the snow, removes her clothing and shoes, and lies down in the backyard. When she is discovered, nothing is the same for anyone. As Jane begins to have visions and retreat into a private inner world, Bonnie finds herself drawn inevitably into an affair with Jane’s husband.
Thompson’s mastery of complex emotion begets a novel of desire and the nature of love—who we love, how we’re loved, and, most important, that we reach urgently and always for a higher love, regardless of our circumstances. She Poured Out Her Heart is a finely wrought, haunting story of female friendship and deception, and the distance in between.
In She Poured Out Her Heart, Jean Thompson explores the intricate bonds of friendships.
Bonnie Abrams and Jane Nicholson have been friends since college and although their friendship has had its share of ups and downs, the two women still remain close nearly two decades later. After college, their lives go in completely different directions: Jane is married to Eric, a cardiologist, and she is a stay at home mom to their two kids whereas Bonnie has achieved professional success but continues her lifelong pattern of sleeping with unavailable men. Jane is rather shy and unable to give voice to her growing unhappiness while Bonnie is self-confident and quite outgoing. When life gets too difficult for Jane to deal with, she welcomes the “white” space she disappears into and after one of these incidents lands her in the hospital, Eric and Bonnie find comfort in one another’s arms. When Jane discovers the affair, neither Bonnie nor Eric is prepared for her rather unconventional reaction.
Jane is content to coast through life doing what is expected of her. She is not especially passionate about Eric and she is often overwhelmed by the demands of her children. Jane downplays Eric’s suggestion she get professional help for her depression but to avoid conflict, she agrees to see a therapist. Jane makes an attempt to describe what she is experiencing to her doctor, but since she is not completely honest, she does not receive adequate treatment. Fast forward a few years and Jane’s coping mechanism takes a dangerous turn and leaves no one in doubt about her fragile mental state.
Although Bonnie puts a positive spin on her dating life, she is growing increasingly unhappy with her single status. She continually chooses emotionally unavailable men or men with commitment issues, but she cannot seem to break free from this unhealthy pattern. It takes Bonnie a long time to understand what motivates these poor choices but by the time she figures this out, she is already emotionally invested in her relationship with Eric. It is not until Jane makes an extremely out of character decision that Bonnie re-evaluates her life but will she truly commit to the changes she has decided to make?
None of the relationships or characters in She Poured Out Her Heart are particularly healthy or happy. Bonnie, Jane and Eric are deeply flawed and they each have different coping mechanisms for dealing with their problems. Eric hides behind work, Bonnie drinks too much and Jane is never fully invested in any part of her life. Jean Thompson does a wonderful job keeping the plot realistic and unique but there is little character growth or real progress overcoming their issues. Despite the novel’s surprisingly hopeful conclusion, the lack of resolution with any of the storylines is extremely frustrating.