Rating: 4 1/2 stars
“The Year We Turned Forty” by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke is the third book by this writing duo, who happen to have been best friends forever in real life. Like their other two novels, in this one there’s a bit (actually a lot) of magic.
The three best friends they write about in this story are like most people — they’ve made mistakes that they regret, and they wonder what they might have done differently to change their lives. When celebrating their 50th birthdays together, they get an offer that is pure magic. What if all three of them — and it has to be all three together — get a chance to go back ten years and relive the year they turned forty?
Jessie had a baby the year they turned forty. It was unexpected, the result of an affair. When she confessed as much to her husband, he left her and now, ten years later, is getting remarried. Jessie still loves him, and this offer makes her wonder what might have happened if she kept the secret about her son’s paternity from her husband. Would they still be married?
Gabriela, a best-selling author, regrets that she and her very loving husband never had a child. While he always wanted a child, she wanted to concentrate on her writing. It wasn’t until the year she turned forty that she changed her mind. But for Colin, her husband, it was too late. Maybe with another chance, she could convince him.
Claire is the one with the most difficult decision. She’s in a good place in her life. Her rebellious daughter Emily finally seems to be making good decisions, and she is engaged to a wonderful man. But her mother died shortly after she turned forty, and going back would give her some time with her mother. Maybe if they diagnosed the cancer earlier, her mother would even be alive?
What the three women find out is what might be expected: There are no easy fixes in life. But having ten years experience and getting to relive their 40th year might just be what it takes to make their lives even better.
Fenton and Steinke don’t write fairy tales, even though their books need a bit of magic to make the plots work. So the reader should know in advance that there is no magical fix, no perfect life, no “happy ever after.” Even with a hefty dose of magic, people remain who they are. But the women are older (in mind, if not in body) this time around and their decisions are more mature and based on information they didn’t have the first time around. This reviewer particularly enjoyed watching Claire dealing with her spoiled daughter — and how the second time around, she was much better able to deal with tantrums and obnoxious behavior.
“The Year We Turned Forty” is a perfect gift, a perfect book to read at the beach or by the pool, a perfect book for those who have always wondered, “What if?”
Please note: This review is based on the final paperback book provided by Washington Square Press, the publisher, for review purposes.