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

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☆➹⁀☆☆ 5 stars☆➹⁀☆☆


What it’s about:

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…

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A second chance…
A “do-over”…
A mulligan…

Wouldn’t it be nice to have an opportunity to re-do a situation or year of your life that you didn’t handle well or didn’t turn out as you expected? It’s interesting to reflect on what one would expect if given a chance at a do-over.

The very lovable characters, Jessie, Gabriela, and Claire have been best friends since high school. Their birthdays are all about the same time, and they have vowed to celebrate them together. I loved these women; they are funny, smart characters. They were each very different in terms of their life experiences, relationships and family situations, but they remain good, reliable friends. My heart ached for their hardships and losses even though some of them were due to their poor decisions. With their combined list of missed opportunities and colossal errors in judgment, they’re lucky to have each other to buoy them through the rough seas.

The year they all turned forty, they had their usual big bash, and then their lives were turned upside down by various choices they had or were about to make. They dealt with all of that together.

Ten years later, the gals head to Vegas to celebrate the big 5-0. When the women are offered an opportunity to relive the year they turned forty (I love the title tie in!), they hesitantly jump at the chance. Each of the women thought this rare gift would be the chance to keep what they had lost that year. With the wisdom of time and experience, the women know they’d make different decisions. None of them count on the new, smarter choices leading not to immediate bliss, but different problems. It’s decidedly a case of the grass being a different shade of brown on the other side of the fence.

Will Jessie, Gabriella, and Claire change their destiny? Or, is their destination set, and they’ll only effect how they reach it? The joy of this book is in the journey, so you’ll have to read the book to find out!

The Year We Turned Forty is a beautiful tale about friendship, love, and family. Fenton and Steinke have an easy, relatable writing style. The plot had a nice flow. While their book is peppered with little life messages, it doesn’t feel preachy and it is not horribly overt.

“You have to find your happiness in what you already have.” –Jessie

Some of those life insights definitely spoke to me, but like Mary Poppins and her spoon full of sugar, they went down easily due to Fenton and Steinke’s enjoyable story. Suspend disbelief and go back in time….what, if anything, would you do differently?

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About the authors:  Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke have been best friends for 25 years and survived high school and college together. Liz lives in San Diego, CA with her husband and two children. Lisa, a former talk show producer, now lives in Chicago, IL with her husband, daughter and two bonus children.

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