Published: May 8th, 2018 by Flatiron Books
Genre: Literary Fiction
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
I’ll just go ahead and jump right in – I LOVED this book. Receiving it was a surprise… the lovely people over at Flatiron Books sent me a copy along with my most anticipated read of 2018… The Family Tabor. I was so excited for the copy of Cherise Wolas’ forthcoming novel (if you want to know why I’m so excited, feel free to check out my review of her previous book here) that I’m not sure I even read the cover of My Ex-Life until the next day.
Because I am holding off starting The Family Tabor so I can buddy read it with the same group that read Joan Ashby together, I decided to go ahead and jump in with My Ex-Life. And from the first couple of chapters, I was absolutely hooked. I couldn’t put this book down.
The synopsis, while intriguing, wasn’t one that had grabbed my attention all that much. And the title didn’t overly impress me either. I thought it sounded like a fun read, but I wasn’t necessarily ready to drop everything for this one. That is, until I started it.
In case you don’t know what this book is about, it’s a drama and a comedy, a story about friends and family and forgiveness. Our protagonists are David, a man who has recently broken up with his boyfriend and put on a noticeable amount of weight, and who learns he might be losing his rental house, and Julie, a woman who has separated from her husband and is struggling to maintain her own house as a not-so-legal Airbnb. Although they haven’t spoken to each other in many years, David and Julie were once married. And with everything falling apart around them, they turn to each other for support. David travels across the country to help Mandy, Julie’s teenage daughter, apply for colleges, and he and Julie end up helping each other in a myriad of ways.
The writing of this book is excellent. I was impressed by Stephen McCauley’s prose from the very beginning. This story had me laughing out loud and rereading passages just to savor them. They also had me caring deeply about these quirky characters and growing attached to them very quickly. The book switches back and forth between the third person perspectives of David and Julie, and occasionally jumps over to Mandy as well, and by the end of the book I felt like I knew each of them personally. (And isn’t that just one of the best parts about a good book? I love feeling like I’ve made friends within the pages.)
The friendship between David and Julie was different than any relationship I’ve encountered in a book before and I completely adored it. They find themselves back in each other’s lives at the exact moment when they need each other most, and watching them each deal with their own troubles and learn to lean on each other was such a wonderful story to follow along with. I was also intrigued from the very beginning by Mandy, and although her story made me sad for her, I loved seeing the ways in which she grew and the came to terms with herself.
I think there’s one more character worth mentioning here, and that’s the house itself. It has been Julie and Mandy’s home for many years, and now they’re coming to terms with the fact that they might lose it. Julie’s desperation and determination to do what she can to keep it is a huge part of the story. The house is quirky, like so many of the characters. It is cramped and crowded with things and with tenants who are renting out rooms, who each bring their own personalities into the house. It’s the source of some of the trouble, it’s the battleground, and it’s also home. It’s the place where David learns to find himself again, and it’s the place where this strange little family starts to piece itself together.
I will say that there is a sort of “big reveal” from David and Julie’s past at the end that fell just a little bit flat for me. Not so much so that it affected my overall opinion of the book… but it was something that I would have liked a little bit more from. If you’ve read it, I think you will know what I’m talking about. It just seemed a little bit more of an afterthought than a true thing that happened and shaped these characters. I found myself wishing for a little bit more on the subject, so that I could continue to feel as moved and attached to the characters as I did through everything else.
All in all, I adored this book. It was quirky and fun, full of excellent writing, and also moving in a way I hadn’t anticipated. I flew through these pages in a day and a half, but now I’m wishing I’d slowed down and spent as much time with these characters as I possibly could. I’m missing them now that I’m through and plan on revisiting them some time in the future!
If you’re wanting to pick this one up for yourself, it hits the shelves next week on May 8th, 2018!
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