Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Review: The Life You've Imagined

Summary: Is the life you're living all you imagined?

Have you ever asked yourself, "What if??" Here, four women face the decisions of their lifetimes in this stirring and unforgettable novel of love, loss, friendship, and family.

Anna Geneva, a Chicago attorney coping with the death of a cherished friend, returns to her "speck on the map" hometown of Haven to finally come to terms with her mother, the man she left behind, and the road she did not take.

Cami Drayton, Anna's dearest friend from high school, is coming home too, forced by circumstance to move in with her alcoholic father . . . and to confront a dark family secret.

Maeve, Anna's mother, never left Haven, firmly rooted there by her sadness over her abandonment by the husband she desperately loved and the hope that someday he will return to her.

And Amy Rickart—thin, beautiful, and striving for perfection—faces a future with the perfect man . . . but is haunted by the memory of what she used to be.

Kristina Riggle's The Life You've Imagined takes a provocative look at the choices we make—and the courage we must have to change.-- Avon

It seems like it's been awhile since I've read a book by a member (or alum) of The Debutante Ball, and I can't really say why because I almost always love them! One of my favorites was a book that I reviewed last year by Kristina Riggle called REAL LIFE AND LIARS. I am always drawn to books about dysfunctional families and I thought this one was very enjoyable.

So when I was fortunate enough to receive an ARC of Ms. Riggle's latest novel THE LIFE YOU'VE IMAGINED, I couldn't wait to read it. The book's description definitely appealed to me -- four very different women who, for a variety of reasons, decide to look at the choices that they've made in their lives. I was even more excited to find that the story was told in alternating chapters voiced by each of the four women. Definitely my kind of book!

I wasn't disappointed with THE LIFE YOU'VE IMAGINED -- whew! In fact, I can't exactly put my finger on it, but I didn't want to put this book down. If I had to venture a guess, I'd say that it was because I actually liked all four of the main female characters in this book. And, if you've been reading my blog lately, you already know that I've been having a hard time liking some of the characters in the books I've been reading. That I found something to like in each of the characters is really saying something.

All four of the women featured in THE LIFE YOU'VE IMAGINED are at some sort of cross-roads in their life. Each of them are very different, both in personality and/or age; however, I was surprised to find how much they had in common. Every one of them was unhappy or discontent with their lives. As each woman reflected on her past choices and the reasons for them, they often times faced a great deal of pain. What I found so inspiring about each one, though, was that they were willing to face the difficulties and make changes to improve their situations in life. I know I'm a sucker for books about female friendships, but I loved how they depended on each other and realized how important their relationships were.

Once again, I was impressed with Ms. Riggle's writing style! Not only do I think she has an uncanny way of creating some memorable characters, but I love how she gave each one of them a voice. As I mentioned earlier, the chapters alternated between the characters and their stories, and I thought the author did a wonderful job of making each voice unique and distinct to the character. I also appreciated how the story flowed between the past and the present. I thought her transitions flowed very smoothly, and as a reader, I enjoyed how the characters' stories unfolded.

Another thing I really enjoyed about this novel were the overarching themes or messages (if you will.) I appreciated how each character really assessed her past choices and then realized where she needed to change in her present day life -- whether that be a career choice, a dependency issue, increasing self-confidence, or acceptance. We all know how difficult any type of change is, but when you have to consciously change your behavior patterns, it's often times even more difficult. I actually found these four women's stories to be not only enjoyable but heartwarming.

THE LIFE YOU'VE IMAGINED would make a fantastic book club pick in my opinion! I can definitely see a bunch of women sitting around with some wine discussing these characters. There is a readers guide available in the A+ section in the back of the book along with an interesting interview with the author. Some of the topics you might want to explore include self awareness, accepting responsibility, mother-daughter relationships, love, careers, abuse, friendship and change. I am pretty sure that every women will find themselves not only liking these characters but also relating to them.

I thoroughly enjoyed THE LIFE YOU'VE IMAGINED and I think that many women will agree with me! If you are a fan of women's fiction, then I highly suggest checking out this book!

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this novel.


rhapsodyinbooks said...

It's great to like ALL of the characters - it makes so much difference! I'm so glad you felt this way with this one!

bermudaonion said...

I love books that are told from different points of view - I feel like I get the true story that way. This one sounds true to life - when you think about it - we are similar and also very different from our friends. I'm anxious to read this book.

Beth Hoffman said...

I think I'd like this book. Thanks, Julie, your review is great!

S. Krishna said...

I totally agree, I really enjoyed this book as well!

The Many Thoughts of a Reader said...

this has been on my tbr shelf for awhile. i think i may have to suck it up and spend moolah on it. ;)

Jen (Devourer of Books) said...

I hope you're going to come join us on September 7th to talk about the book!