Cami and Anna, friends from high school who have moved on to separate, very different lives, both end up back home, living in their childhood homes, in their thirties. Cami is recovering from a recent breakup and trying to dry out from her gambling addiction, but unfortunately living with her abusive, alcoholic father once again brings back painful memories of her childhood she’s not sure she’s ready to deal with. Anna, a Chicago attorney, is in mourning over the death of a very good friend when she takes a leave of absence from work to return to her mother’s home and the convenience store she runs. The Life You’ve Imagined also introduces us to Maeve, Anna’s mother, who is still clinging to hope that her husband will come back to her, after abandoning her and Anna more than twenty years earlier, and Amy, a former classmate of Anna and Cami’s, now engaged to one of the most prominent men in their town, but can’t quite believe she deserves this life she’s about to walk into. These four women have the unique opportunity to take a step back, look at the lives they’ve been living, and take the time to decide whether new choices, new directions need to be taken in order to arrive at the lives they’d imagined.
I had high expectations going into The Life You’ve Imagined because I’ve heard really great things about Kristina Riggle and the quality of her writing and storytelling ability. I was pleased when I really enjoyed this novel. Kristina Riggle definitely has a way with characters, and with telling a compelling, thought-provoking story that also moves along at a good clip.
What I liked most about this book were the characters, and the developing relationships between them. Yes, Cami and Anna had been friends years ago, but they really had to get to know one another again as adults, and reignite their friendship after being apart for so many years. They were both complex women, dealing with a lot of issues, but trying to put a brave face on for the world. Anna in particular intrigued me, because she was such a stone-faced lawyer in some instances, but at the same time so sweet with Cami, so protective of her mother, and still harboring feelings for her high school boyfriend, now married with a child. A great example of a realistic, flawed character if I ever saw one. I also liked Amy’s character, she reminded me of myself in a lot of ways. No, I did not lose a lot of weight by exercising my butt off and restricting every single thing that goes into my mouth like she did, but I could really relate to the insecurity she felt. She never felt like she was good enough for the life she was living, she constantly tore herself down and punished herself for every little thing, and I have to admit to having a bit of that inside myself as well. I believed in Amy as a character from the start, and of all four of these women, I enjoyed reading about her progression throughout the novel the best.
I found the events in the novel to be believable and realistic. Sometimes with these kinds of books, there can be silly coincidences or too-happy endings, but things in The Life You’ve Imagined just made sense. There were a few aspects of the plot that were a bit strange to me, but overall I was happy with the way things turned out and I loved reading about these characters’ journeys. They went from letting life just happen to them to taking charge of their own lives and creating their own destinies. I loved that about the novel, it felt so authentic to me but also had a great “message”, if you will.
The Life You’ve Imagined is just the book I hoped it would be – an engaging story, excellent characters, good writing, and a book that held my interest and absolutely did not let go. I will be reading more of Kristina Riggle, that is for sure. And I definitely recommend this one!