Designer You by Sarahlyn Bruck: moving but ultimately upbeat


Pam Wheeler checked every box: Happy marriage? Check. Fantastic kid? Check. Booming career? Check.

So when her husband dies in a freak accident and their DIY empire goes on life support, Pam must fix the relationship with her troubled and grief-stricken daughter and save the family business.

Pam and Nate were a couple who just couldn’t get away from each other, sharing not only their bed, but also a successful lifestyle empire as DIY home renovators, bloggers, podcasters, and co-authors.

When Nate dies in a freak accident, Pam becomes a 44-year-old widow, at once too young and too old—too young to be thrust into widowhood and too old to rejoin the dating pool.

Now the single mother of a headstrong and grief-stricken teenager, Pam’s life becomes a juggling act between dealing with her loss and learning how to parent by herself. On top of all that she also must reinvent herself or lose the empire that she and Nate had built so carefully.

It is time for Pam to seize the opportunity to step up as a mother, come out from behind Nate’s shadow, and rise as the sole face of the Designer You brand, and maybe, possibly, hopefully, find love again.


My review

Given its story line, you might expect this to be a harrowing book. However, whilst it portrays raw grief very effectively, it’s at heart a positive, optimistic book. Pam has to deal with a nightmare scenario, and she does. Not always the best way perhaps, and not without succumbing to despair a few times, but she copes. Not only for herself, but also her teenage daughter who is already at a difficult time of life and now has all this extra awfulness thrust on her. Pam has support from her family, and Nate’s, but she still feels very much alone. So when her daughter vents her frustrations on her too, it’s not easy.

Pam buries herself in her business. Not from choice. but because she has to keep Designer You going. She and Nate had a quite lavish lifestyle and Grace is at a swish private school, so there are plenty of bills to pay. However, it’s a diversion from dwelling on Nate all the time. Pam meets a lot of challenges in becoming the new, lone face of their business. Some are  harder than others to deal with, but she soldiers on. Along the way she encounters Charlie, a divorcee, and they click, sharing as they do their aloneness and the problems that teenagers can bring.

Pam is a wonderful character – inherently strong, but also vulnerable. She’s energetic, endlessly patient with her daughter but also brings her up short when Grace pushes things that bit too far. She’s a loving mum who does her best but makes the odd mistake along the way. She doesn’t always want to be an adult, but she knows she has to be.

The language of the book is vigorous and energetic with clever, apt imagery. For example, Pam scowls at her watch, and her friend Becky, who’s British, sounds ‘authoritarian’ whenever she speaks because of her accent.

It’s an absorbing read, very moving but also, ultimately, very upbeat.

Super cover too.


Purchase Link

Author Bio – Sarahlyn Bruck writes contemporary women’s fiction and lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter. She is the author of DESIGNER YOU, published by Crooked Cat Books on August 31, 2018. Sarahlyn teaches writing and literature at a local community college and also coaches writers for Author Accelerator.

DESIGNER YOU is Sarahlyn’s debut, and she is hard at work on her next book. Want the latest updates? Follow along for news, events, and announcements at You can sign up for her monthly newsletter there, too.

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