WEEK 12 BOOK 10: The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman
Publisher: Bantam (July 9, 2013)
Author Interview: Click here.
From the Jacket: Brett Bohlinger has forgotten all about the list of life goals she’d written as a naïve teenager. In fact, at thirty-four, Brett seems to have it all – a plum job at her family’s multimillion-dollar company and a spacious loft with her irresistibly handsome boyfriend. But when her beloved mother, Elizabeth, passes away, Brett’s world is turned upside down. Rather than simply naming her daughter the new CEO of Bohlinger Cosmetics, Elizabeth’s will comes with one big stipulation: Brett must fulfill the list of childhood dreams she made so long ago. Grief-stricken, Brett can barely make sense of her mother’s decision. Some of her old hopes seem impossible. How can she possibly have a relationship with a father who died seven years ago? Other dreams (Be an awesome teacher!) would require her to reinvent her entire future. For each goal attempted, her mother has left behind a bittersweet letter, offering words of wisdom, warmth, and – just when Brett needs it – tough love. As Brett struggles to complete her abandoned life list, one thing becomes clear: Sometimes life’s sweetest gifts can be found in the most unexpected places.
About the Author: Lori Nelson Spielman lives in East Lansing, Michigan, with her husband and a very spoiled K.C. (Kitty Cat). A former speech pathologist and guidance counselor, she currently works as a homebound teacher for inner-city students. Lori enjoys fitness running, traveling, and reading, though writing is her true passion. She spends her winters cursing the god-awful Michigan winters, and her summers sailing the glorious shores of Lake Michigan. (This bio taken from Lori’s website found by clicking here.)
Book Review: THE LIFE LIST is the perfect book club book. For one, the premise behind THE LIFE LIST is so intriguing. Imagine for a moment that upon your mother’s death you are asked to live out items from a bucket list you wrote when you were a teenager. Before reading the first page I was already thinking about the sort of things I would have written on a list when I was younger compared to a list I would write now, as an adult. My instinct is to tell you that items on my teenage list would probably be silly and juvenile. But in truth, they’d probably reveal a great deal – seedlings of who I am today. Leave it to a mother to save her daughter’s list and then help her daughter become who she was meant to become. Mothers (and fathers) raise us; and in that raising, they hold us accountable.
The question of what you’d include on a life list as a teenager verses a life list you would write as an adult would make for funny and insightful conversations during a book club discussion. For new book groups, it would give members a chance to get to know each other better, and for established groups, another chance to bond. Wouldn’t it be interesting if a group of friends wrote life lists and then helped each other achieve them?
Another reason this is a perfect book club book is the fact there’s a mother-daughter relationship at the core of the story. Those relationships always prove to be rich with both conflict and love. Brett, the main character, has a substantial inheritance withheld from her contingent upon her completing her life list within one year’s time, so we have both a challenge and a deadline – both of which apply varying amounts of pressure on the main character at different times during the story. One interesting take-away I had from the book was the size of the inheritance. The mother figure in this book amassed an enormous amount of wealth in her lifetime and yet, as the story unfolds, readers will see that the mother’s life was not as rich as the mother had wished when she was alive. Something happened at a pivotal point in her [the mother’s] life which I believe provided added motivation for the mother to impose this difficult task on her daughter. This mother, from the grave, wants her daughter’s life to be the fulfillment of everything the daughter ever dreamed and this mother doesn’t want her daughter to wait another minute. She wants it all for her daughter, and she wants it now.
If all we had was a life list and a mother-daughter relationship, we’d have the makings of a great book. But what was deliciously surprising about this book were the storylines that developed as a result of those items on the list. Readers are introduced to wonderfully fleshed-out characters and their unique stories, some of them harrowing (Sanquita) while others fresh and filled with promise (Austin, Johnny Manns and Zoe). The result? An interplay of both tension and resolution, regret and wish-fulfillment, and most important, for Brett, a chance for healing and forgiveness, and a chance for her questions to be answered.
Because there were so many rich and rewarding storylines that developed in this book, there isn’t room in this book review to outline the many topics for discussion this book provides.
Whether you plan to read it for your own enjoyment or as part of a book group, run. Don’t walk. Lori Nelson Spielman’s book, The Life List will be released by Bantam July 9, 2013, but you can preorder it now on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. To make it easy for you, links to this book on those websites are provided. Simply click on the words Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
Might I suggest you place a bulk order and preorder a copy for everyone in your book group? If you don’t have a book group, perhaps start one using Spielman’s The Life List.
If this book review were a Ginsu knife infomercial, right about now I’d say, “But wait! There’s more!” To learn more about Lori Nelson Spielman, the author of THE LIFE LIST, click here to read my Author Interview. I hope you enjoy.