Review: The Year We Turned Forty by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

My Thoughts

A wonderful, poignant read that lingers long after you finish.

4halfstars

Synopsis

Apr-26If 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…

My Review

THE YEAR WE TURNED FORTY is a story you feel—relatable, heart rending, poignant with its steady, measured pace. It’s a story of friendship and marriages, lovers and exes, parents and children. Three best friends get a second chance to get things right, to fix regrets, to meddle with their fate and the fate of those they love. Theirs is a story rife with both introspection and action as they trudge through their emotional mire to seize their best chance at happiness.

I’ve thought about it a lot. And I think the point of going back to that year wasn’t to make everything perfect. It was to learn how to face things head on, instead of running from them or hiding them.

For long-time friends Jessie, Gabriela and Claire, turning fifty was bittersweet—life battles had been fought, lovers had been lost, marriages had broken, children had grown. And despite trying to look forward, the actions from the past still weighed heavily on their present. So when in a twist of birthday magic they get the chance to rewind ten years, to the year they turned forty, they take tremulous leaps of faith to smooth out their life’s wrinkles.

So what now?…

We try to fix the things we broke the first time.

For Jessie, going back meant fighting for her marriage. Back then, she’d felt discarded, unseen, until one night, a drink too many and a growing desperation freed, she’d had an affair and conceived a son. One night, one decision had torn apart her relationship. Going back would mean keeping the truth buried, but keeping her marriage in tact too. She couldn’t let the opportunity pass.

… she was determined to get it right this time.

Gabriela was a famous, bestselling author, but she’d chosen not to start a family with her husband Colin, until turning forty changed everything… by then Colin wasn’t willing to have a baby. The ache of that decision had never ebbed, and to her, going back meant a final chance to convince her husband that having a child was the right choice.

Of the three of them, Claire had made peace with her life. She’d struggled with her spirited daughter for years, but now they were finally on track. Yes, her husband had been the kind of father they were better off without and so she’d raised Emily on her own. She’d always wondered, however, if she’d let the one go—a man who was good and loving and had stayed clearly in her past as a result of one of her choices. Could going back mean she’d not only further smooth her relationship with her daughter, but also keep the man she’d loved? And could she help save her mother who had died of cancer?

With a nod, the three of them were sent magically back to try to improve their happy ever afters.

Was it a good year for any of us? No. But I don’t know if the point is to compare. Maybe we need to revise our definition of what better means.

What each of them realize, however, is that going back and making decisions would alter more than they had the power to control. Suddenly there were things and people at play that changed everything, made things more complicated. Worse yet, as time ticks on and emotions run high, a rift begins to grow between them and the one thing they’ve counted on for so long—their friendship—begins to splinter under the pressure.

Life wasn’t meant to be played like a game of chess, moving the people you love like pawns to win the game.

I loved feeling my way through their story. So much of their experiences were relatable, rooted in emotions most of us can understand. It truly was an exploration of the big IF and what it means to really consider our actions, their outcomes and the awareness we have around the goodness  in our lives. With a mix of sadness, determination, love, wit and an irresistible effervescence, these three women discover what (and whom) matters the most. THE YEAR WE TURNED FORTY is a wonderful, heart-warming novel to pick up, enjoy!

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