I received this book for free (hey, thanks!) in exchange for an honest review. I promise that this does NOT affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. For real.The Year We Turned Forty by Liz Fenton, Lisa Steinke
on April 26th 2016
Also by this author: Girls' Night Out, The Good Widow
(336 pages) • Goodreads • Amazon • Barnes & Noble
If you could repeat one year of your life, what would you do differently? This heartwarming and hilarious novel from the authors of The Status of All Things and Your Perfect Life features three best friends who get the chance to return to the year they turned forty—the year that altered all of their lives, in ways big and small—and also get the opportunity to change their future.
Jessie loves her son Lucas more than anything, but it tears her up inside that he was conceived in an affair that ended her marriage to a man she still loves, a man who just told her he's getting remarried. This time around, she’s determined to bury the secret of Lucas’ paternity, and to repair the fissures that sent her wandering the first time.
Gabriela regrets that she wasted her most fertile years in hot pursuit of a publishing career. Yes, she’s one of the biggest authors in the world, but maybe what she really wanted to create was a family. With a chance to do it again, she’s focused on convincing her husband, Colin, to give her the baby she desires.
Claire is the only one who has made peace with her past: her twenty-two year old daughter, Emily, is finally on track after the turmoil of adolescence, and she's recently gotten engaged, with the two carat diamond on her finger to prove it. But if she’s being honest, Claire still fantasizes about her own missed opportunities: a chance to bond with her mother before it was too late, and the possibility of preventing her daughter from years of anguish. Plus, there’s the man who got away—the man who may have been her one true love.
But it doesn’t take long for all three women to learn that re-living a life and making different decisions only leads to new problems and consequences—and that the mistakes they made may, in fact, have been the best choices of all…
Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke have been on my list for so long. The plot summaries of their books ALWAYS intrigue me but I haven’t been able to prioritize reading them yet. When I got approved for this one, I knew I had to read it as soon as I could. In this case, ARC August was the perfect time to get it done! I love books about parallel lives and time travel, and this one was a fun combination of both, kind of.
Summary in a Second
Three friends (Gabriela, Claire, and Jessie) are approached by a magician who offers to send them back in time to when they were 40. They can live the entire year all over again and change how they once handled things. Then, when the year is up, they have to decide to either stay in 2005 and live their “new” lives, or come back to 2015 and continue with their “old” lives. All three have to agree on staying there in order to stay, otherwise they all come back to 2015. Sooooo cool. Like I said, sort of a mix of parallel lives and time travel… but still very much a contemporary fiction/romance book!
Storytelling & Setting
Because I loved the concept behind this one, I was super eager to see how the story unfolded. I’ll admit that it was all pretty predictable for me. The girls were very obvious about what they’d change in their new 40th year. The pacing was a little odd because the book stretches over the course of the year.
About those Characters
Gabriela wanted to go back in time to convince her husband they should try for a baby instead of focusing on her publishing career. I kind of liked her overall and was intrigued by the fact that she was an author, but her obsession with getting pregnant was hard to read. She refused to see reason or listen to medical professionals, her friends, and her husband. I know she became blinded by that desire, but her whole life was crumbling around her.
Jessie, who got pregnant by another man, wanted to not tell her husband that the baby wasn’t his. Last time she did tell him, he took off right away. I could understand that if she wanted to actually change how their lives worked out last time, she would not tell him this time, but obviously that’s a terrible idea. I think it’s more about how you prove you’re sorry AFTER telling instead of telling vs. not telling. So, that was also hard to read.
Claire wanted to spend more time with her mother in her final year of life and try to catch her sickness faster, while also trying other parenting methods with her troublesome daughter. I feel like I cared the least about Claire for some reason? She didn’t have as much of a plan as the other ladies did going back, but she wanted to be a better mom (often more discipline for her daughter) and try to convince her mom to get to the doctor sooner. I was meh on her story because not much changed.
All the Feels
To be completely honest I didn’t have a lot of feels towards any of the characters. I didn’t feel that bad for them, but I did sort of understand where they were coming from? As I’ve said a bunch, I get why they changed their behaviors when they went back in time – because otherwise what’s the point in going back? Nothing will change if you do everything the same. In any case, yeah, no feels besides the fact that it made me think about my own life and choices. What year would I go back to to change?
So, What’s the Problem?
Because the book took place throughout one whole year, a lot of it felt glazed over – like telling and not showing. I didn’t FEEL a lot of things. I didn’t get to know the characters as much as I’d hoped. All in all, the pacing kind of slowed things down for me. I get why they needed to capture the entire year, but it wasn’t enough for me I guess.
The characters frustrated me at times too. It was hard to get on board with the new decisions they were all making. Gabriela became obsessive over the baby and refused to listen to anyone. Claire was a wishy-washy parent again even though that was something she wanted to change. Jessie decided that it was a better idea to NOT tell her husband that she cheated on him this time. Some of their decisions didn’t make sense, but I get why they did it. If they were really going to change the course of their lives, they had to actually make changes.
About that Ending
I’m going to talk a lot about the ending in spoiler tags because it actually REALLY surprised me. But kind of not at the same time. In any case, spoilers ahead: View Spoiler »In most books like this, the main characters decide to head back to their regular lives, because no one should be allowed to go back and change things, right? They learn that their lives were wonderful before and everything happens for a reason. Well, not this time! All three girls decided to stay in their “new” lives. Surprising right? I kind of saw it coming because their new lives were a bit better than their old ones and really enabled them to fix things, in some ways. But still, most books would either leave you hanging and not tell you where they ended up, OR they would all stick with their old lives. « Hide Spoiler
“As humans, we often let our egos rule our decisions. We let fear stop us from reaching our true potential. We forget about love. But the heart, it never forgets. No matter what happens, no matter how hard things get, it always remembers.”
I loved this book in theory and premise more than the actual execution. Don’t get me wrong, it was enjoyable and interesting to read. Maybe I just felt too disconnected from the characters for some reason – like I didn’t really connect with any of the three ladies. If the premise intrigues you then definitely read this one!
Quick & Dirty
Describe it in a word: thought-provoking
Recommended for readers who: enjoy parallel life + time travel + contemporary
Drink this beverage with it: probably alcohol
Recommended overall? yeah, I’d say so!
Thoughts in a Gif
“The One That Could Have Been”
|Plot & Premise|
|Pacing & Flow|
|Feels or Swoons|