Balancing Act is a novel about a year in the life of Kate, a 43-year-old single mother of three, during her internship at a law firm, a requirement in British Colombia after completing law school. Because of her age, Kate gets only one offer — from a small law firm where the two primary partners are so at odds, they can’t even agree on the office renovation. Kate has to work around the construction without so much as a chair to call her own.
Author Diane Tupper begins the book on a bright note, with an amusing tale of Kate’s first day at the law firm. However, the rest of the book never quite fulfills that early promise. Each chapter is designated by month with a case that Kate handles for the firm during that time. Although the cases and Kate’s “adventures” are pleasant enough, they become a springboard for Kate to muse – sometimes at random – on everything from deadbeat dads to spousal abuse. For example: “I have read a lot about battered wife and husband syndrome…but I still find it hard to understand…”
The story is also hindered by the author’s use of first person. Although billed as a novel, at times the narrative feels more personal than fiction. Tupper goes overboard, for instance, to protect her fictional characters from hurt feelings. “John could be difficult to work for, but I will never forget how good he was to my boys…” Or, “Just to be clear, my mom and dad loved my children; they just had a different way of running a house.”
Although the author tries to indicate how hard it is to be all things to all people, the book never elicits sympathy for Kate’s struggles. At one point, she declares that all single mothers need a “wife” and negotiates a deal with her teenage daughter to take over that role on the home front. If only life were that simple.
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