Reviewed by Starza Thompson.
It’s very rare to find a book that is so imaginative that visualizing the characters and places in the book becomes effortless for the reader. In Pam Ferderbar’s Feng Shui and Charlotte Nightingale, the story comes alive. Ferderbar’s novel is imaginative, hilarious, and sweet—a great quick read for anyone who can relate to feeling unlucky, who likes romantic comedies, or who just needs a good laugh.
Charlotte Nightingale isn’t just down on her luck, she is plain unlucky. Her apartment is falling apart; her boyfriend is a liquor-drinking, money-stealing, unemployed womanizer; her car is a piece of junk; and her job at a less-than-reputable car dealership comes with massive abuse from customers and coworkers alike. What’s worse, her sister Charlene seems to have everything Charlotte does not: good looks, a gorgeous doctor for a fiancé, her parents’ devotion and respect, and more. Weirder still, Charlotte’s Chinese-food delivery guy, Kwan, keeps showing up at her apartment uninvited. Little does she know, Kwan is a Feng Shui master. As he quietly unclutters her house, her life seems to change for the better.
Feng Shui and Charlotte Nightingale is Ferderbar’s first novel. The story began as a novella and movie rights to the story sparked a bidding war between movie production companies. She sold the movie rights to New Line Cinema, but in a typical Charlotte-like moment, the executives on her project were fired and her movie was tabled indefinitely. Ferderbar’s book takes the typical romantic comedy/chicklit genre and adds quite a few unexpected twists, making this story both laugh-out-loud funny and heartwarming at the same time.
One of the first of many pleasant surprises in this novel was the use of multiple points-of-view. In many books of this genre, the audience is often confined to the perspective of the female character or her love interest as the story draws the two characters together until their lives intertwine. In Feng Shui and Charlotte Nightingale, we follow three different protagonists: Charlotte, her boyfriend, Frank AKA Joey, and her Chinese delivery person, Kwan. While the male characters are connected to Charlotte, their stories don’t depend on her love or affection. Each character has his own unique purpose in the book outside of helping the female character find love, which is very refreshing.
Further, while there are some elements of love in the story, it isn’t the sole focus of the book. The protagonists display a depth of character beyond who they love and whether or not they end up with their love interests. The characters are quirky and interesting, which makes it easier to fall in love with each of them.
I found only a couple of faults with this novel. First, the secondary characters seem like caricatures of the people they represent. Charlotte’s parents hate Charlotte as much as they love her sister Charlene. Charlotte’s sister is an extremely vapid and selfish Barbie-like girl. Kwan’s father is a disciplinarian who doesn’t like his employees to slack off, and the list goes on. If Ferderbar had spent as much time developing her secondary characters as she did her primary characters, the book would have elevated from a funny rom-com to a quirky and heartwarming masterpiece. Second, I wish the book was longer! At times, it moved too fast. Each chapter could have been a little longer to allow the audience to learn more about Charlotte and the people in her life. At only ~64,000 words, there is some room to add and flesh out the story even more.
Overall, Feng Shui and Charlotte Nightingale is a fantastic read. With surprise twists, imaginative characters, and crack-up funny scenes, this novel has something for every reader. If you are looking for a story that is a little different, and characters that will make you laugh as you fall in love with them, then this is the book for you. I highly recommend Feng Shui and Charlotte Nightingale.