The Spectacular by Zoe Whittall

Q: Do you read multi-generational books?
The Spectacular
Zoe Whittall
Pub Date: 9/14/21
The evolution and change of these real people was fluid and what life really looks like at least to me.

We orbit through three generations of women’s lives, through their choices, needs, wants, mistakes, hopes, dreams, pain, misery, growth and evolution to the next steps on their path.

How to even describe Ruth, Carola, and Melissa (Ruth, Juniper and Missy). They each struggled in their relationships and marriages and were taken advantage of or taken care of going into the next relationships. They were each strong independent women until they were not. They each had such strong ideas of the world and their path, then life experiences and change made those ideas different.

The decisions that these women could and could not make with their own lives and bodies because they are women is an ongoing struggle and fight in this country (I am looking at you Texas!) and the world.

I enjoyed the relationships in this book though some were heartbreaking, some found their love the second time around, it’s ok to not work together, it isn’t a failure. People change there is only one life you can move on and be friends but cmon dont cheat!

I loved Missy’s timeline for how strong she was and her encounter with Andie and how that changed her outlook on her sexuality. How she started off wanting an abortion than in her 40’s wanting a baby. I will tell you hormones are crazy. (I thought breastfeeding sounded gross in a new mom class one weekend, then a few days later my 1st came a month early and I got a rush of new hormones and mama bear deep voice whipped my boob out and said give her to me, my tiny 3 pd baby). Not every woman can be or wants to be a mother. Sometimes it’s overwhelming emotionally or financially.

I felt these 3 women’s pain across their timelines, their need for connection, their need to run away but want to be found, I wanted to slap all the men they chose to be with.

Thank you randomhouse and netgalley for the e-ARC for my honest and voluntary review.


It’s taboo to regret motherhood. But what would happen if you did? Shifting perspectives and time periods, The Spectacular is a multi-generational story exploring sexuality, gender and the weight of reproductive freedoms, from the author of The Best Kind of People. 

It’s 1997 and Missy’s band has finally hit the big time as they tour across America. At twenty-two years old, Missy gets on stage every night and plays the song about her absent mother that made the band famous. Missy is the only girl in the band and she’s determined to party just as hard as everyone else, loving and leaving someone in every town. But then a forgotten party favour strands her at the border. 

Forty-something Carola is just surfacing from a sex scandal at the yoga centre where she has been living, when she sees her daughter, Missy, for the first time in ten years—on the cover of a music magazine. 

Ruth is eighty-three and planning her return to the Turkish seaside village where she spent her childhood. But when her granddaughter Missy winds up crashing at her house, she decides it’s time that the strong and stubborn women in her family find a way to understand each other again. 

In her new book, by turns sharp and provocative, Zoe Whittall captures three generations of very different women who struggle to build an authentic life in the absence of traditional familial and marital structures. Definitions of family, romance, gender and love will radically change as they seek out lives that are nothing less than spectacular. 

Praise for The Spectacular:

“Zoe Whittall has this incredible ability to go straight at the honest emotional heart of a story, and yet even with that ferocity, her writing is always graceful, a total joy to read. It makes it so easy to love her characters. In the best books characters feel like my friends, but with the mothers of The Spectacular, they came to feel like my family.” – Torrey Peters, author of Detransition, Baby

“The Spectacular gives us three brilliantly distinct voices of women challenging the societal expectations of who they should be. This is a novel about how we learn to define who we are, about the courage to make decisions nobody will understand, and about the profound complexities of maternal ambivalence. Zoe Whittall has a gift for vividly capturing our human behaviours, and for dialogue that will grab your heart. Both expansive and intimate, wild and tender, I loved it.” Ashley Audrain, author of The Push

“What an honor and privilege to read a book that so fiercely wants to be read. Zoe Whittall’s THE SPECTACULAR is rangy and deft, weaving three character threads together in a dextrous series of twists that left me excited for more. I found myself deeply attached to the women of this book and their relationships with one another. Whiitall addresses motherhood and autonomy in ways I’ve never seen done before. A fascinating stunner of a novel, THE SPECTACULAR is exactly that: spectacular!” – Kristen Arnett

“Both raw and refined, The Spectacular is an insightful, poignant exploration of family and relationships from one of my favourite writers working today. A multi-generational story that’s fully alive.” – Iain Reid, author of I’m Thinking of Ending Things

“Birth, identity, sex, what a woman wants, the vagaries of desire, love nibbling at the heart, independence, forfeiture of self, mother. Zoe Whittall carves at all of this with her pen and lays it out on the page in this fierce and tender novel.” David Bergen

“Zoe Whittall’s engrossing and epic novel paints an indelible portrait of three women, each of them navigating the complex constraints of their bodies, their families, their obligations, and their desires. A daring and beautiful examination of motherhood, The Spectacular left me breathless.” Robin Wasserman

“Fearless, challenging, epic—these are all words I have been using to describe The Spectacular, Zoe Whittall’s latest novel about three generations of women who are tied together by family obligations and a crooked connection to motherhood. Ruth, Carola, and especially Missy crackle off the pages, sometimes prickly, often uncertain, but always searching for a happiness that is bound by the expectations of becoming a mother and the resentments that follow. Fiction often teaches us truths, and The Spectacular does just that, laying bare the ways in which women are defined and the ways in which women can define themselves.” Jen Sookfong Lee

“Zoe Whittall’s The Spectacular is such a fun read. It sizzles with women’s desire — for success, fulfillment, distraction, drugs, sex, love, care. The worlds Whittall’s characters inhabit – a former ashram, a commune, the indie rock scene of the 1990s – are alive with meaning. Witnessing the women in this novel connect, miss each other, and try to figure one another out is a joyful and tender experience. The Spectacular is… what can I say, spectacular!” – Ilana Masad


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