Set in suburban San Diego, The Answer Is Yes takes the typical problems of a youngish, married woman--a distracted husband, a lackluster job--and straightforwardly shows the ways in which they undermine a happy life. Better yet, Sara Lewis's third novel manages to get from those problems to a satisfying life, a trip that takes lots of luck and hard work. Lewis's narrator, Jenny, has just moved to Southern California from Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her scientist husband, Todd, who seems more married to his lab than to her. In contrast to Todd's preoccupation with his research, Jenny hates her bank job and when she loses it, cannot motivate to find another. On top of these things, she feels incomplete because she was adopted as a child and has yet to locate her birth mother.
One evening, Jenny stumbles into the Institute of Affirmation, an adult education center whose motto is "The Answer Is Yes, Now What's Your Question?" As the novel unfolds, the school's hokey positivity, embodied in its appealing director Michael--usually dressed in purple bike shorts and pink ballet slippers--seeps into Jenny, despite her resistance, just the way that Southern California sun can eventually warm and win over some New Englanders' hearts. At the school she directs a play and takes miracle-making workshops on the side. All this eventually leads to the reawakening of her marriage and her spirit. In the end, Jenny discovers truths like this one: "If you stay with someone long enough, it's quite possible that you will fall out of love with him. And then if you stay just a little longer, you might just fall back in." Resisting the temptation to wallow in hot-button sensationalism, Lewis instead injects The Answer Is Yes with a happy, albeit sometimes New Age-y, self-awareness, which makes for a novel of hope and comfort. --Katherine Alberg [via]