The Life You’ve Imagined by Kristina Riggle – Book Review

The Life You’ve Imagined by Kristina Riggle
Published by Avon A, an imprint of Harper Collins

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.
Misquoted from Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden”

Living the life you’ve imagined is something that may be easier said than done, at least that is what Anna, Cami, Maeve, and Amy are finding out. Anna and Cami, best friends in high school who have grown apart as they aged, both find themselves back in Haven, Michigan at the same time. Cami’s boyfriend kicked her out after she stole from him to feed her gambling habit, sure she would use his money to win back her own money she had lost. For Anna, the return has more to do with grief than misdeeds. Her beloved mentor, August was killed in a traffic accident while she was talking to him on the phone, and her law firm insists upon bereavement leave, since she’s essentially useless anyway.

As a result of their return – and Cami’s lack of any income – the girls find themselves back in Haven and at the Nee Nance Store, the convenience store run by Maeve, Anna’s mother. Unfortunately, Haven is not one for them. They worry about the letters Maeve has recently been getting from her long-gone deadbeat husband, and the fact that her store is now slated for destruction by Amy’s fiance. As all four women’s lives get increasingly complicated, they must consider whether they are truly living the life they’ve imagined and, if not, what to do about it.

What a rich, messy, and real book Kristina Riggle has written!I was very surprised when she gave one of her characters a gambling addiction, because that isn’t something I’ve seen very often, but she pulled it off beautifully as one of Cami’s character flaws, without overdoing it and making it too seedy, it was just this glorious, real weakness she had, much like Maeve’s weakness for the husband who left her, the draw Anna had to her now-married high school boyfriend, or the formerly-heavy Amy’s fixation on appearance. And by the way, keeping Amy so relateable and giving her so much depth when she could have come across as simply very shallow? Absolutely fabulous.

I think that after “The Life You’ve Imagined” and “Real Life and Liars,” Kristina Riggle is going to be my official go-to for novels about the complications of everyday life. The tragedies that her characters experience are always so real, and never feel simply piled on, and their responses are absolutely true to life, messy, complicated life. What they experience is nothing that can’t be worked through, especially if they do it together, but neither is it something with a simply, pat answer. She leaves the reader with an ending tied up enough to satisfy, but not so much that it becomes unrealistic. Like in life, there are always a few more questions, a degree of uncertainty.

I highly recommend both this and Riggle’s debut, “Real Life and Liars.”

If you pick up a copy of this book, please join us on September 7th and 8th for an online book club discussion right here at Devourer of Book! I will have two copies of “Real Life and Liars” to give away to randomly chosen participants. If you review the book online, please leave a link on the Mr. Linky below.

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