After her best friend abandons small-town Casey in New York City alone, out of necessity she moves in with Luc, a volatile, but alluring, chef. Casey, teaching high school English while she finishes her PhD, is clever and compassionate; but she is also plagued with deeply rooted insecurities firmly planted by a controlling and critical mother. So, when Luc begins to fall for her, she doesn’t believe she could ever be good enough for him.
Luc’s mother, who is all about appearances, reinforces Casey’s diffidence, insisting that her son deserves better than the woman she describes as “short, fat, and with hair that is a nest of curls.” And when Casey goes home with Luc for Thanksgiving, she meets his model ex-girlfriend and sees, first hand, that she is definitely not Luc’s type. Still, Luc makes her feel more loved than she ever has; she is so flattered by his unfamiliar affections that she quickly dismisses any nagging doubts and lets herself fall in love with him.
But, when Luc’s erratic moods manifest as anger and aggression toward Casey, to protect their relationship, she begins to shut down, desperately hoping to avoid conflict, yet losing herself in the process.
It isn’t until she meets Danny, a firefighter still emotionally recovering from 9/11, that Casey is able to reclaim a part of herself.
By that point, it may be too late.
Through it all, Casey learns that in life, meaning isn’t found in the decisions we make; significance is born from the culpability we are willing to accept for our choices. Our actions are never good, or bad; they are defined only through the reality we attach to them and the way we use them to create our truths – the secrets we keep, the lies we tell ourselves, the words left unspoken. This book is about what happens when people don’t speak the words that need to be spoken.
I give this book 5 Hearts
This book is a page-turner with a lot of love and heart! I bonded with the characters- in fact I couldn’t put this book down because I wanted to know what would happen to these troubled but appealing souls. Just Enough was also hard to predict- which kept it interesting. At the beginning of the story I thought it was going to be about a young woman, Casey, who has low self-esteem which makes her question her relationship with the handsome chef she meets. He has difficulties, too as he deals with a bipolar disorder. The story encompasses so much more. Casey becomes close friends with her friend Hannah’s husband. Which man is right for her? There are many emotional moments before the end of the book, and I was totally affected by the powerful ending. I feel that readers should know that the main story line ends up being about infidelity and there are many sexual scenes that are moderately explicit. Even though I didn’t agree with many of the characters’ decisions- that’s why they are book characters, right? It’s interesting to see life from another perspective.
—Jena C. Henry
Getting to Know You!
Me: You are an author, but I hear that you have plenty of other interests and talents- please tell us!
Elizabeth: I have recently grown enamored by the New York Times. For years I wasn’t a newspaper reader, but suddenly I am compelled to read the Times every morning. The Wednesday edition is my favorite (aside from the Sunday of course) – the Wednesday crossword is the right blend of easy and challenging and, of course, Wednesday is the day with the Food section – which brings me to my biggest interest and talent – cooking!
Me: Would you mind sharing a favorite recipe? I suppose we would like something healthy to eat at this time of year!
Elizabeth: I’m going to answer this one in a round about way – I go through phases where I tackle a culture’s food and feed my family little else for weeks on end. I begin the process by reading and reading and reading about the food (special ingredients, spices); then I master a few core recipes; then I go “off book” and cook from the instincts I’ve developed about the food. So, the short answer is, I’m not a day-to-day recipe user, but I do use recipes as training manuals. Today, actually, marks the beginning of my Moroccan phase. (My husband gave me a beautiful Moroccan-made tajine for Christmas!)
We are moving out of my Indian phase. I think that Indian food is probably the most versatile and healthful food anyone can make. But I also think that many people are intimidated by it. Most recipes call for garam masala, which is really just a spice blend that can be made at home with spices that most have on hand already. (I blend 3 T of cumin, 1 T each of coriander, cardamom, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.)
Anyone who wants to venture into Indian cooking should start with a basic makhani (it can be done with chicken or more traditionally beans). There are a gazillion recipes out there, and none better or worse than the others. One thing I would absolutely recommend with Indian cooking, though, is to cook the spices in a bit of oil to form a fragrant paste before adding to the dish. It just makes for a more robust flavor in the final dish. Even if the recipe you use doesn’t call for it, do it! I promise it’s a good idea.
Me: I know that you have an advanced degree. Please tell us about your graduate experiences- was it as hard as I imagine?
Elizabeth: I have a PhD in literature. I wouldn’t say it was hard, necessarily, because it was something I was doing because I wanted to do it; what I mean is, I didn’t need the degree. So, the course work was a blast. The dissertation though? Eek. It took me forever. I say it took me six years to write, but if I’m being honest, it only took me 10 months – I just kept talking about writing it for all those other years instead of actually doing it. When I found out I was preggers with my second kiddo, I decided I had to get to it.
Me: What was your thesis?
Elizabeth: The short, and maybe somewhat interesting, version is that my dissertation looks at the monsterization of Jews and Muslims in medieval literature through a post-9/11 lens. I argue that there’s a clear correlation between the American view of terrorists after 9/11 and the Christian view of all other religious groups during the Middle Ages. Ultimately, my point is that these base-level similarities can (and should) be used to teach medieval literature to high school students so that it doesn’t seem like such a distant (i.e. “Dark Ages”) era.
Me: Interesting…I will ponder this and I may have to interview you again to learn more about your thesis. Readers are you wondering, as I did, just how many books were available in the Middle Ages? Here’s Goodreads list of the bestsellers of the Middle Ages.
Me: Please tell us your favorite books.
Elizabeth: In spite of the fact that my speciality area is medieval literature, none of my favorite books come from that time period. The books I always claim are my favorites are Lord of the Flies, Great Expectations, and Frankenstein. But, if I’m being honest and not playing into the whole lit-degree image, I would say Bridget Jones’s Diary is my favorite!
Me: You are an English teacher- do you feel that this helps or hinders your writing?
Elizabeth: I love this question. You know in Mr. Holland’s Opus how Richard Dreyfuss’ character decides to be a music teacher so he can spend all his non-teaching time working on writing his music, but then he never does because … well … because he’s a teacher? That’s exactly how it is. I just have so little time to write. But, I wouldn’t say that teaching hinders my writing, because teaching is who I am. It’s in my soul. I am inspired daily by my students. I always tell them that I would rather be with them instead of “real people.” Then they say, “so we aren’t real people?” And I tell them, “no, you’re better than real people.” And they are: They’re honest, thoughtful, opinionated, and don’t make excused or apologize for who they are. I don’t think that adults who grumble, complain, and roll their eyes at teenagers have ever spent quality time with any.
Me: Please tell us about your book Just Enough.
Elizabeth: This is an awkward question to answer given what I’ve already shared: My main character, Casey, is a high school English teacher, finishing a PhD, who has an affinity for cooking. Sounds almost autobiographical, right? I swear it isn’t. I do admit there are plenty of crossovers, but they are mostly on the surface. Emotionally, Casey is pretty broken and she is constantly looking to define herself through others. The book is about that journey. I guess, in that way, it’s a story about self discovery; but that doesn’t apply only to the main character. All the characters in the book are broken in some way and, throughout, they cause so much pain to one another because they aren’t honest with themselves. It sounds depressing, but I kind of see it as uplifting really. I titled it Just Enough because at the core, the book is about learning to accept that no matter who or what we are, it’s good enough. That doesn’t mean there’s no room for growth or change; I just think that to truly live, we need to start with self acceptance.
Me: Tell us more about your main characters and their motivations.
Elizabeth: Three of the main characters – Casey, Luc, and Danny – struggle with self acceptance throughout the book, but to varying degrees and with different manifestations. Casey is insecure, but she masks it through feigned confidence; she rarely considers her own needs before those of others, which leads her to make poor choices. Luc is bipolar, which I don’t see as a flaw (for him or for anyone), but he has a difficult time with the stigma of mental illness and tends to push people away. Danny was a New York City firefighter during 9/11, but he was across the country at the time and so he has a lot of guilt.
The other major character, Ben, is my favorite. But whenever I talk about Ben, I feel a little crazy. I consciously created Casey, Luc, and Danny, but Ben sort of found me: He wrote himself. I had a bunch of “Ben parts” on scraps of paper that a friend of mine read. I honestly don’t even remember writing those bits … Anyway, my friend forced me to listen to Ben. When I let him into the story, the whole thing shifted and became so much better. But, there are huge hunks of the novel that I have absolutely no memory of writing: Those are the parts where Ben took over. See … makes me sound crazy.
Me: What’s next for you?
Elizabeth: I’m working on a sequel, More Than Enough. There’s a whirlwind of emotions at the end of Just Enough – even I still cry every time I read the last two chapters – and the next book picks up a few months after. I don’t know when it will be done. I can’t even say how far along I am. I don’t write sequentially; I write chapters, paragraphs, even single lines as they come to me, and then I put it all together. It’s not the most efficient approach, but it’s the only way I can keep the narrative from sounding forced.
Me: Let’s play favorites! Favorite:
Beverage – Red wine, especially Chianti (that happens to be Casey’s favorite too)
Snack – parmesan cheese (with my wine)
Movie – Grease – it’s the first movie I remember seeing in the theater. I was five. When I watch the movie now, it seems wildly inappropriate for such a young kid to have seen it! I also love Apollo 13; it’s the movie I saw the most times in the theater – four times in its first two weeks of release!
Sport – I am a huge baseball fan (again, so is Casey; but she is a Yankees fan, and I bleed Tigers’ blood)
Vacation place- dream and real – I really enjoy traveling the Michigan coast and seeing all the lighthouses; I love the beach, but not the warm sunbathing type of beach. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest so, to me, “beach” means wind, bluster, heavy cloud cover, and thick sweatshirts. I’ve been to a few places peppered throughout Europe. I’ve never been to Ireland, though. I feel like I want to go there. I’d also like to visit Alaska.
App – I really like the app Choices. It’s like a modern day version of those ‘choose your own adventure’ books I devoured when I was a kid. Each week different chapters are released in each of the stories. It’s hard to explain; you need to experience it. I tell everybody about it. The writing and plot development are pretty solid; impressive for an app.
Singer/song – I’m obsessed with Maroon 5. But, I’m also happy listening to most anything with a good beat.
Outfit – I wouldn’t say I have a particular style, but I do have a collection of Dr. Martens – the more offbeat, the better. I also really like wearing what I call “dress camo” – meaning camo-print skirts or dresses.
Me: I’m with you on the red wine and I must check out that app, Choices!
Me: Do you like social media? Have any funny stories about that?
I enjoy Twitter and Instagram, but I’m not a huge Facebook fan. In my experience, people seem really grumpy on Facebook; they make snide comments and use it as a way to say things to people that they wouldn’t have the guts to say face-to-face. I guess this can happen on Twitter too, but I don’t see it as much there. I LOVE Goodreads, though. One of my students told me that Goodreads “is like Facebook for old nerds.” Ha! I’ll take it.
Me: Are you a morning glory or a night owl?
I go to bed around 7:30 or 8 and am up anywhere in the 2 to 4 a.m. range. Those morning hours, when I am the only one awake, are my favorite.
Me: Come on Mama, please share about your kids!
Elizabeth: I’m the proud mommy to two perfect kiddos: a nine-year-old girl who can already play four instruments, and a four-year-old boy with a personality that is going to get him out of all the trouble he finds his way into. (Me: I think she speaks from experience!)
Me: I have so enjoyed getting to know you on Twitter. I got a kick out of one of your tweets- where you asked for options about the Amazon Dash buttons. Did you end up buying any Dash buttons?
I did not. I couldn’t find one for a product that I use enough. I am still fascinated by them, though. Amazon adds new ones all the time so I keep checking. I saw that they have a Trojan one now. I think that’s hilarious. I can’t get the image out of my head of some 20-something dude with a Trojan Dash button on his headboard. It seems ridiculous, right? (Or maybe the basis for a book character!) In seriousness, though, I love Amazon. I can’t wait until they expand their drone deliveries to the Midwest!
Thanks Elizabeth- you are quite a talented and creative gal, with a warm spirit! We will all be looking forward to your next book, More than Enough.
Elizabeth Oaklyn holds a Ph.D. in Literature and teaches high school English full time while raising her two kids with her best friend. She enjoys traveling and has a bucket-list goal to see every lighthouse around the Great Lakes; she’s currently seen 3% of them. For fun, Elizabeth collects gnomes, “Big Boy” figures, and Dr. Martens; she also loves wine way more than she should, and is currently seeking treatment for her Hawaii Five-0 addiction.
I am a writer, blogger, book reviewer, and bon vivant and encourager. I have lived my entire life in Tropical Ohio. My goal is to make friends with everyone in the world. I am writing a fiction series, The Golden Age of Charli, that presents the problems and praises, and the love and laughter of family life and retirement.
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