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Finishing Touches    by Deanna Kizis order for
Finishing Touches
by Deanna Kizis
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by Marie Hashima Lofton

Finishing Touches is the story of a young woman who deals with the tragic and untimely death of a good friend. Cecile, Bryn, and Jesse are college friends. While Cecile and Bryn stand out for their confidence and good looks, Jesse feels mediocre, always putting herself down in comparison to the others. While in college, Jesse meets Zach, and the two hit it off. Unfortunately, things go awry and Jesse moves on, figuring this was not meant to be. Then, Cecile meets Zach. From then on, it becomes a five-some: Zach and Cecile, Zach's friend David and Bryn, and Jesse with whatever man she happens to be dating.

The story goes back and forth in time, setting up events, until just days away from Zach and Cecile's wedding, when tragedy strikes and Cecile dies. She was the charismatic one in the group, the one everyone loved, who kept the friends together. Zach turns to Jesse for companionship. They begin a precarious relationship, amidst uncomfortable family and friends who for the most part see Jesse as trying to replace Cecile in Zach's life. As Jesse and Zach become closer, her friendship with Bryn deteriorates, for reasons that baffle Jesse. She senses that Bryn disapproves of her new relationship with Zach, but Bryn avoids Jesse. Zach's parents don't seem to approve of Jesse either. Things start to go downhill between the two lovebirds, the memory of Cecile always coming between them - though Jesse has always had a soft spot for Zach, she also loved Cecile very much, and being with him makes her feel that she is betraying one of the best friends she ever had.

This is an engaging novel about loss and friendship. While at first I didn't connect with the characters, after Cecile's death, the book pulled me into the intricacies of the relationships between individuals who felt the loss of their friend. Cecile and Bryn seemed one-dimensional. However, the main focus of the book was Jesse, the third wheel, who always felt she was not good enough. Through her new relationship with Zach, she slowly learns that she can be someone worth knowing, and gains confidence that she never could develop while living in the shadows of her friends. I recommend Finishing Touches for its touching story about how the death of a friend can greatly impact everyone around her, and about the guilt that often times comes with it.

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