The Life You’ve Imagined: A Novel by Kristina Riggle (Avon; $13.99; 334 pages)
“…I’m thinking of making a change myself.” She gapes up at me, searching my face as if she’s not sure who I am. I know the feeling.
If you love the novels of Elizabeth Berg, and especially The Last Time I Saw You, you’re likely to feel a great sense of fondness for this book by Kristina Riggle. As with Berg, she hits the sweet spot of human emotion in telling the stories of women who’ve arrived at the point in life where they must either evolve or accept their failure in life. In the words of Bob Dylan, Riggle’s characters are either busy being born or they are busy dying.
Like Berg’s The Last Time, this is an ensemble piece… The Life is about four women, three still relatively young and one clearly not, who are united by circumstances in the town of Haven, Michigan. Haven is not to be mistaken with Heaven.
Anna Geneva is the high-powered Chicago attorney who returns home after being rattled by the death of an older male colleague and mentor. Here she must deal with her mother Maeve, whose mom-and-pop convenience store is failing. Morever, Maeve holds out hope of being reunited with the man who long ago abandoned her and Anna. Anna will also encounter two of her best female friends from high school – Cami Drayton, who has come back to live with a monster of a father, and Amy Rickart, the now slender and beautiful bride-to-be who used to be overweight and socially ostracized.
Only Amy lives a life to be envied as she prepares to marry the loving and considerate man of her dreams. But her husband-to-be’s career will place him in conflict with Anna and Maeve and Cami and she will soon come to wonder about his values in life. She will even come to wonder if he loves her at all after he announces that their wedding must be postponed.
About three-quarters to four-fifths of the way through the telling of this tale, you – the reader – will figure out exactly what the resolution will be. Except that Riggle has other ideas and soon you’re following unexpected twists and turns as you near the end. In this fashion, it’s like real life which is never quite what we imagined it would be.