If Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke sound familiar, it might be because we reviewed their novel, Your Perfect Life, not that long ago. The link to that review is at the bottom of this one. I liked its hilarious and heartwarming style so much that I jumped for joy when I saw that they had a new novel coming out, The Year We Turned Forty.
Have you ever had a year in your life that sucked so badly that you wished you could have a do-over? Boy, I have! And that’s what drew me to The Year We Turned Forty. I live my life as much as possible so I won’t have any regrets but sometimes you look at a year in your life and think, geez, that one could definitely benefit from a complete makeover – wonder what would have happened if… Sound familiar? Then read on because have I got a book for you!
Jesse, Gabriela, and Clare have been the best of friends forever. They know where all of each other’s skeletons are buried, or at least they think they do. After all, besties tell each other everything, right? There is one thing they all three have in common, a year from hell – a year that changed all of their lives forever. The year they turned forty. They’ve each got a lot of “if onlys” about that particular year, and they’ve wondered individually and collectively how things would have been different if they’d made different choices that year. Saying it haunts them would not be an exaggeration.
They love to dream about how their lives would change if they could only go back and relive the year they each turned forty.
Take Jessie, for example. She made a choice that led to an incredible joy in her life, Lucas, her son. One minor detail…Lucas was born because Jessie had an affair. And that affair destroyed her marriage. Her ex-husband just told her he’s getting remarried, and Jessie not only still loves him but still punishes herself for that ill-fated affair. Who is Lucas’ father, and can Jessie keep that a secret if she could go back and do over the year she turned forty?
“Her pregnancy had been difficult for so many reasons, and Jessie wasn’t one bit surprised that it was culminating in an arduous labor. In her mind, she deserved every painful contraction, every minute that clicked by without relief.”
Gabriela was always career-driven to the exclusion of everything else. She could come up with rationalizations for everything she did and they all sounded perfectly reasonable at the time. She lived for writing and publishing – it was her child, her marriage, her future, her everything. Her drive paid off and she became one of the most successful authors on the planet…but at what cost? When she finally realized that the thing missing from her life was a family, it was too late. Her clock had not only stopped ticking but the alarm had gone off. Will Gabriela be able to convince her husband to give her the greatest gift she can now think of, a baby, if she can go back and do over the year that would have been her last chance?
“When Jessie’s water broke, something had cracked open inside Gabriela too – an incredible desire to hold the baby, to nuzzle it against her and marvel at its ten tiny fingers and toes. She’d never wanted children of her own, and had never wavered, not even when Colin would place yet another of their friends’ birth announcements in front of her with an expectant look in his eyes. She’d gently repeat her explanation – that she just didn’t feel she was meant to be a mother. Then she’d watch the range of emotions ripple across his face…”
Of the three friends, Clare seems to be the outlier because she’s actually finally made a kind of peace with what happened the year she turned forty. Clare has finally moved on from it. Clare and her daughter, Emily, have survived Emily’s turbulent teenage years – something Clare swore would kill them both. Now Emily is in her early 20’s and is engaged, and life is good again. Clare does still have regrets, incompletions in her life, but she’s worked to put them behind her. Can she be tempted to find out what her life would have been like if she had made peace with her own mother before it was too late? Could she have done something to ease Emily’s torturous teenage years if she had a do-over? And, last but definitely not least, could she have done things differently – things that could have saved her relationship with the man she loved with all her heart, the one she blames herself for losing?
“Clare’s phone vibrated in her hand [in the hospital maternity waiting room] and her stomach jumped as she realized the adorable guy she had bantered with last night was now calling. She pulled her magazine up slightly to hide her smile from Gabriela. Forty was starting off right.”
These three women are about to get their wish, even though they don’t realize it until they have already committed themselves. What seems like a laughable fake-magical encounter is going to throw them right back into that year of their lives, literally. How will reality differ from memory? Can each of them do what it takes to make the changes they think they want to make? And, of course, how will those changes change their lives for better or worse? They get the year to figure it out and then all three of them have to agree whether to stay in the new reality or go back to the original reality…and consensus on that decision may be tougher than they think.
I’m not going to say more about these women than I did above to avoid spoilers – except that I really liked all three for very different reasons. I could relate to pieces of all of them, as I suspect a lot of women can.
The Year We Turned Forty falls into the “be careful what you wish for” category. Just like with Your Perfect Life, it is part comedy of errors and part heartwarming story. Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke have hit upon a writing partnership that really works and I hope they will write many more novels together, because I can’t wait to read the next one!
Can’t wait to read it? The Year We Turned Forty is available in all formats from your favorite online bookseller. Click on the link below and you can have it to read asap!
I’d love for you to comment on The Year We Turned Forty, Liz Fenton, Lisa Steinke, and/or their prior work, and/or this review!
Click here to read our review of Your Perfect Life by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke.