Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My take on: The life you've imagined

" Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Life the life you've imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler." -- Henry David Thoreau

I've read that quote several times, and I don't know if I am truly living the life I've imagined. Part of that quote plays a big part in the latest book I finished. It's taken me a while to gather my thoughts on The Life You've Imagined by Kristina Riggle. Not because it is a bad book, it is quite wonderful, but rather Kristina Riggle had me thinking about my own life.

I thought back to my college days. If I hadn't applied for an editing internship after college, where would I be right now? At the time, I wavered on that decision, thinking I might not be good enough. The internship led to a job I've had for nearly six years. What if I had gone in another direction? Any book that causes me to examine myself is alright with me.

In The Life You've Imagined, four women -- Cami, Anna, Amy and Maeve -- get the opportunity to examine themselves. Big-shot lawyer Anna Geneva has returned to the small town of Haven, Michigan, after being forced to take a bereavement leave. Her beloved mentor has died, and now she must learn to coexist again with her mother Maeve.

Maeve is pining away for her wayward husband, Robert, a man who ran off decades ago. Their long, dormant love affair is rekindled through letters, which she keeps secret from Anna. Promises of happiness in a house built on their own land, offer Maeve the chance to dream of a better life. A life where she doesn't have to live in the small apartment above her convenience store -- the Nee Nee Nance. A life where she doesn't constantly have to worry about her erratic sister-in-law Sally. But is life with the dreamer Robert, the life she imagined?

Cami Drayton, Anna's high school friend, is also reluctantly returning to Haven. Having gambled away her boyfriend's money, Cami must return to her childhood home -- and her abusive, alcoholic father. Long-buried secrets surface, secrets that robbed her of a better life.

Amy Rickart, another childhood friend of Anna's, is about to marry into the most powerful family in town. She should be happy. Amy was once the fat kid in school, but now she has blossomed. That transformation has also led Amy to become a perfectionist. The flowers, dress, cake and dress for the wedding have to be just right. Her body also has to be just right -- a body she won't even let her fiance Paul Becker to see. But does perfection truly make Amy happy?

Anna must also confront her past. She must confront the one who got away -- her high school boyfriend, William "Beck" Becker Jr. Anna gets a glimpse at what a future with Beck, who is now married, could be. But is it the one she imagined?

Everyone can relate, including men who might think this is chick lit, to the issues raised by Riggle. Everyone at some point in their life has wondered "What if?" Each character has a say, as the chapters alternate between perspectives. Sometimes that can be a problem, but not here. Anna is hardened and practical, but learns to loosen up. Cami has learned to be guarded after years with her abusive father. Maeve is worn out from financial worry, but remains hopeful. Amy wants perfection, but learns to see through the denial. The conclusion isn't all wrapped up in a bow, which I thought it might. The ending is very true to real life because life is often unpredictable, and most of all not perfect.

Rating: Superb


Notes: I received a copy of the book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. For more information on author Kristina Riggle, visit: http://www.kristinariggle.net/index.html

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