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The Life You've Imagined

by Kristina Riggle

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1285155,318 (3.73)1
"A richly woven story laced with unforgettable characters....A beautiful book." --Therese Walsh, author of The Last Will of Moira Leahy "The Life You've Imagined is a terrific novel about love and loss, letting go and holding on. A book to share with family and friends--I loved it." --Melissa Senate, author of The Secret of Joy   From Kristina Riggle, author of the brilliant debut Real Life & Liars, comes The Life You've Imagined, an astonishing new novel about love, loss, life, and hope. It's the story of four former high school friends who are forced to examine what happened to their high school dreams which are now at odds with their grown-up reality.… (more)



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I'm not sure if this is 3.5 or 4 stars. There was so much about the book that I liked, but the overall book had some issues.I liked hearing the stories of each of the 4 main characters. I think that four of them was too many, both because none of the stories got the full treatment it deserved, and because that seemed like a few too many crises at the same time.I never felt I had a grip on the problems that sent Anna home, away from the life she'd always imagined, from the potential partnership she'd been working so hard for. As she returns home, she meets up with her former best friend, who flees from a crisis in her new life, and falls into a crisis (that's been building for years) with her father.Anna's mother has a handful of secrets-- She's losing her home and her business due to new development turning her area upscale; she's having health problems and can't afford her medication; her husband that abandoned the family and has been missing for over 20 years is suddenly back in touch.And so on-- this web expands to include a network of crises for her aunt, another high school friend, her high school boyfriend, his brother, and more.Each of these stories is interesting, and is well written as far as it goes. In some cases, the problems are inter-related, and the timing is not coincidence. Others seemed forced, and like the author was trying too hard.This may be a pet peeve, but I wish that there had been one couple with a happy, stable relationship. Even if they'd been dealing with family issues, financial issues, child issues, friendship issues, body issues (all of these are in the book somewhere), it would have been nice to have one stable marriage. ( )
  ImBookingIt | Jun 6, 2011 |
I love my home state of Michigan. One of my favorite t-shirts says "Smitten with the Mitten." I've worn it so much that it's starting to wear out. Suffice to say, a book written by a Michigander or one that takes place in Michigan will always peak my interest. If the author grew up in my home town, I'm beyond sold. Kristina Riggle apparently grew up in my own backyard. Score! Hers new novel, The Life You've Imagined takes place in a Haven, an imaginary town along Lake Michigan. That isn't why I thought it was a great read, though. I loved it because of the characters, their struggles, and their determination. Reading about Anna, Cami, Mauve, and Amy would have made me feel at home if the book was set in Alabama, Argentina, or Antartica. They spoke to me as a daughter, a friend, a wife, and a mother.

Anna was asked to take a leave of absence from her Chicago law firm after the tragic death of her mentor. She isn't really comfortable without her work, but she has little choice after making a clumsy mistake on a case. She decides to spend the time visiting her mother, Mauve. Mauve has spent most of her adult life as the proprietor of a convenience store in Haven. It wasn't what she dreamed of doing with her life, but when her husband left her alone with a young daughter, she didn't have many options. Now, 20 years later, she thinks she may have found her way out. Cami doesn't want to be back home. After "borrowing" too much money from her live-in boyfriend to fund her gambling addiction, she could no longer stay with him. Her father was distant and abusive, but staying with him was better than living on the street. Amy has never left Haven. Doing so would have required that she believe in herself. As someone who has always been overweight, she was far too insecure to do much of anything. Now that she's slimmed down and has a good job, she still feels like the fat girl. Even planning for her wedding hasn't changed how she feels about herself. All four of these women have very different opinions on what the ideal life is when they come together that fateful summer.

I read this novel while on vacation and it was perfect. I was interested in each of the characters and it read quickly. I enjoyed Riggle's writing when I read her first novel, Real Life & Liars. The Life You've Imagined has some similar elements - the middle aged mother, children returning home, and a beautiful Michigan setting. Both novels were engaging and thought-provoking. When I finished it and set it down in my beach bag, I found that The Life You've Imagined was even better for me. This may be because I could strongly relate to the character of Amy, but it is just as likely because I could feel Riggle's growth as an author and story teller. While she began this novel before Real Life & Liars, I believe it benefited (thus I benefited) from her writing and publishing experience.

I read The Life You've Imagined at the beach, but that doesn't make this novel just a summer read. I recommend this to you any day, week, month, or season. I think you'll become a Kristina Riggle fan just like me. ( )
1 vote LiterateHousewife | Sep 30, 2010 |
Are you living the life you’ve imagined? In Kristina Riggle’s second novel, four women ask themselves this very question. Anna is a lawyer living in Chicago. She left her small hometown of Haven as quickly as she could without looking back. She’s made a new life for herself, a life she is proud of. She’s worked hard and is up for Partner at her law firm. All this changes when her mentor and close friend, August, dies. Much to her chagrin she’s asked to take bereavement leave to cope with her grief. For all intent and purposes, her time home was only supposed to be for a little while. Funny how life can detour your plans.

Cami has also returned home. She and Anna are high school friends. The two woman part ways shortly after graduation. Cami is a tutor and recently broke up with her boyfriend. She has no place to go after he learns of her gambling addiction. Her father is an abusive alcoholic and doesn’t care much for Cami’s return home. He allows it with a condition: she must never go into his bedroom. Naturally this causes Cami to wonder what is it he is hiding from her.

Maeve is Anna’s mother. She owns the Nee Nance store and resides in the apartment above the store. She was once married to Robert, Anna’s father, and he left them when Anna was a little girl. Now, Robert is back in her life and wants a second chance. Maeve is hesitant at first, but eventually her love for Robert gets the best of her and she begins answering his letters. Fate may be kind to her this time as his plans to start over come when Maeve’s lease for the store is up. Maybe she won’t have to spend the rest of her life alone.

Amy is marrying into one of Haven’s wealthiest families. Amy feels very lucky to have met Paul. In high school she was quite overweight and none of the boys paid her any attention. Now in her mid-30s, she’s lost a lot of weight (thanks to running every morning) and is determined to stay that way. Even if it costs her her happiness.

In her second novel, Riggle examines the dreams and hopes we had growing up and in early adulthood. Each woman is at a turning point in her life and comes to face the question: is this the life that I’ve imagined? As each woman struggles with this answer, Riggle takes us back to their past to help the reader fully understand the path taken that has brought each woman to the fork in the road. Told in alternating chapters, Riggle does a fantastic job of giving each woman her own voice.

I’d admit after reading Real Life & Liars last year, I had high expectations for her follow-up novel. I’m happy to say not only was I not disappointed, it was just as good or better than I thought it would be. I must warn you though, long after the book ends, you may find yourself thinking about where you are today and the choices you’ve made that led you to this point. Some of these choices may have been good ones, and some. . . well, may have you asking for a do-over. All in all, I highly recommend this novel. ( )
  scoutlee | Sep 19, 2010 |
Anna is an attorney in Chicago, she's up for partner at her firm, everything is thriving and looking up for her. But when her mentor dies she is forced to take time off from work and heads back to her hometown. Cami has also returned back home. Her and Anna were close friends in high school. She's back to live with her father - who is none-too-thrilled to have her back. She has no other place to go since her boyfriend found out of her gambling addiction and broke off their relationship. Maeve is Anna's mother. She's resided in Haven her whole life running the Nee Nance Convenience Store. Her husband Robert disappeared 20 years ago leaving her to raise Anna on her own. But with her store about to close and Robert's out-of-the-blue correspondence - she'll have to choose between the life she's lived on her own or a possible happily ever after. Amy is about to marry into one of Haven's wealthiest families. She used to be overweight while in high school but (thanks to running every morning) she has lost all that excess weight and now has the perfect body. She has the everything she's ever dreamed of, but will it be enough to keep her happy?

Told in alternating chapters between the four women. Each woman finds herself at a point in their lives where they question themselves and wonder if this is the life they've imagined. They are all happy with the lives they've led and have struggled to reach their goals yet find that although they've reached those goals in life they still are not happy. This is the main thread in The Life You've Imagined. I found myself taken in by these four women. Not only does Ms. Riggle create characters that you can easily relate to but I found a little bit of myself in each of them. Their struggles are real - one is searching for perfection, one is dealing with addiction, one is overly conscious about her weight, while one continues to wait for someone else to bring her happiness instead of taking the reins and searching for her own joy.

This story deals with friendship and family and the decisions that we make in life that lead us to wonder about the life we imagined. A very touching and sweet story. ( )
  bookwormygirl | Sep 13, 2010 |
From my book review blog, Rundpinne:

What if? A key question of The Life You’ve Imagined by Kristina Riggle as each of her characters takes a long look at their lives and ponders the ramifications of the actions they have taken thus far and the choices they have ignored. Cami Drayton has returned home to her alcoholic and verbally abusive father, severely in debt due to her gambling addiction. Maeve is Anna’s mother and harbors several secrets: her store is about to go through foreclosure and she has been in communication with her estranged husband. Her daughter, Anna, is a successful lawyer who has returned home on forced bereavement leave after the death of her friend and mentor, August. Amy Rickart is engaged to Paul Becker who happens to be brilliant, gorgeous and wealthy yet Amy may not be truly happy. She is finally thin and appears to have it all, yet her self-confidence does not quite allow the happiness that one hears comes from being thin, lovely, and with a handsome man. The Life You’ve Imagined is about four women; Cami, Anna, and Amy all went to school together and are catching up with each other while struggling with their own personal demons and Maeve, who has enough issues of her own. The story is told in first person and the chapters alternate between the four women. Riggle writes an intriguing and fast-paced story of life and how the choices we make affect where we are today. Riggle details the lives of each of the women to the point where the reader can easily identify with one, if not all of the characters. My all time favourite character was Maeve, possibly because I am closer to her age than to Cami, Anna, and Amy and my least favourite character from beginning to end is Amy, to the point that I cringed when I had to read about her. The Life You’ve Imagined is beautifully written and the characters are strong and witty and at times annoying, each sharing their joys and sorrows. If anyone has read the book, please leave a comment; I would very much like to discuss this one with someone besides my cat. I highly recommend The Life You’ve Imagined to any reader and think this would be an excellent discussion group choice. ( )
  knittingmomof3 | Sep 1, 2010 |
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