*I received a free copy of The Year We Turned Forty from Washington Square Press via Netgalley. This has in no way influenced my voluntary review, which is honest and unbiased *The Year We Turned Forty by Liz Fenton, Lisa Steinke
Published by Washington Square Press on 26 April 2016
Genres: Adult, Contemporary
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…
The Year We Turned Forty is a captivating story of friendship, love, choices and living with the consequences of those choices.
From the very start, The Year We Turned Forty appealed to me – I’m in my forties, too – because the three main characters, Jessie, Gabriela and Claire were my kind of women. Their close friendship was well done, and I loved that they were all flawed and kept some secrets, even from each other. Apart from the element of them going back in time from their 50th birthday to the day after their 40th birthday, the story is very realistic, and I think the struggles they each had in their lives made a lot of sense. One had trouble in her marriage, the other with her daughter whom she raised on her own, while the third had gotten divorced after she admitted to her husband that she had cheated on him. And these three aspects of their lives was the biggest reason why they agreed to go back ten years to try to fix their biggest mistakes.
While there were some heavy moments in The Year We Turned Forty, there was a lot of humour and lightness as well. Especially when they first woke up back in 2005, and had chunky phones instead of iPhones, and there were no tablets for them to do research on. Going back in time made all three of them react differently to situations that were similar, but this did not make their problems go away – only evolve in a slightly different manner. And as they were re-living some hard times, they were able to be more introspective, and understand that no matter their choices, they would have to live with the consequences.
Going back also created some different problems between the three friends, because of things they had kept from each other that came to the surface in unexpected ways. Also, Claire had to deal with a completely different aspect of her cheating than she did the first time, and while she was almost paralyzed with fear at times, she found an inner strength she hadn’t had in a very long time. The Year We Turned Forty is character driven, and I loved to see that even going back in time didn’t magically fix everything the three women thought was wrong in their lives. However, they were able to see some things with a very different perspective, and acting differently meant that the people close to them reacted differently as well.
Written in three different points of view, Gabriela,Claire and Jessie each share their part of the story in their own chapters, and in past tense, the story moved forward at a very good pace, and I got to know the three protagonists very well. I found the story to be very moving, both because of the strong friendships and because of the way the women handled their problems differently – and with very different outcomes – than the first time around.
As her baby boy was placed on her chest and she inhaled his smell, she was bewildered by how holding her son for the first time could be both the best and the worst moment of her life.
But just four words had changed everything. Four words had instantly trumped all the fights, the months without sex, the names they’d called each other. Just for words ruined their thirteen-year marriage.
He made Jessie feel like she was interesting and sexy, that she could take on the world.