The Life You’ve Imagined by Kristina Riggle – Virtual Book Club

Welcome to the virtual book club for Kristina Riggle’s new book, “The Life You’ve Imagined’! If you’re not sure just what exactly we’re doing here, I gave away 20 copies of “The Life You’ve Imagined” for people to read the book and participate (sponsored by Harper Collins), but receiving the book from me isn’t a prerequisite to participation, anyone who has read the book is welcome to join in! In fact, I have two copies of Riggle’s debut, “Real Life and Liars” to give away to people who participate today and tomorrow. If you need more background on the book, you can read my review, which also hosts a Mr. Linky with other reviews of this book, so check those out, or leave your own review if you’ve written one.

Here’s what’s happening: respond to any or all of the questions in the comments below. As you are able, read through the comments other people have left (you may want to make sure that ‘notify me of follow-up comments’ is checked when you leave your comment), and respond to them. If you use the ‘reply’ link in their comment, your comment will show up right below their to make it obvious you are responding to them. Discuss! Have fun! Grab a glass of wine if you want! If you haven’t read this book yet, remember, there will quite likely be spoilers. Such is the nature of a book club. As is also the nature of a book club, these questions may be colored by my own experiences with the novel, or by reviews I have read. Feel free to take any question in another direction, or disagree with my basic premise.

  1. General thoughts?
  2. The title of this book is taken from a misquote of Thoreau. Do you think it fit the story? How or how not?
  3. Maeve was quite obvious about not being able to disengage herself from the past for a great deal of the book. What do you think held her there? Do you think any of the other women suffered the same problem?
  4. What were your impressions of the men in this book, what did you think about how they were portrayed?
  5. I thought Cami’s storyline was sort of a gutsy one, I don’t remember ever having seen a young woman with a gambling addiction portrayed in literature, or even on TV. It is always either older women (and only Marge Simpson that I can think of) or men. Why do you think Riggle chose to give her a gambling addiction? How did it inform her actions as a character?
  6. Multiple old relationships come back to life in “The Life You’ve Imagined,” both romantic and otherwise. Did you think these were portrayed in a realistic fashion? What is realistic to expect from an old friendship? Romantic relationship?
  7. What did you think about the ending? Were you satisfied? Did it wrap things up too much? Not enough?
  8. If you could ask Kristina Riggle one thing, what would it be?
  9. What else struck you about this book that you would like to discuss?
By the way, thanks for the inspiration for this book club go to Trish from and her Reading Series for “The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott” by Kelly O’Connor McNees

38 comments to The Life You’ve Imagined by Kristina Riggle – Virtual Book Club

  • My main thoughts are in my review:

    The misquote was very appropriate to the story line and it set the tone of the story.

    I found myself drawn more the Maeve then any other character, possibly since we are the closest in age. As for her steadfastness or not disengaging, I think a lot has to do with the cultural influences of the ages of the characters.

    Cami’s character was brilliantly drawn out and her story was a sad one, yet she continued to move on. It was brilliant to use her vice, on-line gambling, as it is rather unusual to read about in a female character, I have never come across it before.

    I enjoyed watching Anna evolve and mature into her own and wondered if she would have done so without the strength of character in her mother and her friend Cami.

    I struggled the most with the character of Amy and even in the end could not find a way to like her. The character of Amy is one I felt at the end was still not an adult. She reminded me more of an adolescent.

    • I think Amy is the one I struggled the most with too, although I ended up liking her a lot more than I thought I would. For me, Riggle made her much more sympathetic than I would have expected based on her character traits. At the beginning I thought I was going to want to smack her the entire book, but that didn’t end up being the case, although I agree she was a lot less mature than the other women in a lot of ways.

  • General thoughts? First, I love Kris. I connected with her on Twitter after reading RL&L and she’s not only a great writer but a genuinely nice person.

    I liked RL&L better than TLYI. Not because TLYI wasn’t a great read, but because TLYI hit a little too close to home (the character of Anna, anyway). With RL&L I could watch people I’ve never met battle through their “issues.” With TLYI, I got slapped in the face with my own!

    Amy was my favorite character. As I was reading, I really wished she’d hooked up with Ed. Although, after getting through to the end, I’d warmed to her fiancee and I think that story line tied up in a very satisfactory way.

    In fact, I think all the relationships with the men were very realistic. Of course Amy wouldn’t gamble away a future with (Mark was it?) for Ed. And of course, Maeve’s ex would be a huge loser. I like that Anna’s hook up with her old flame amounted to nothing in the end. My biggest questions were about the guy she was supposedly mourning over. I would have liked to have known more about him.

    Favorite scene? At the wedding when Amy purposefully dribbled grape juice on her dress. I wanted to crawl through the pages and hug her.

    So long story short, I’m a fan. I’m looking forward to book number three.

  • Thanks for hosting the book chat! I thought the misquote fit the book perfectly and made me reflect on the characters lives as well as my own.

    I think Maeve struggled with letting go of the past because she was still hoping for her happily ever after to come true. She believed in it and maybe felt like she deserved it.

    I do think the old relationships were portrayed realistically since Cami and Anna were best friends. I don’t get to see my oldest friend that often, but when I do, we fall right back into things since we have such a long shared history and know each others families so well. I’m not sure about the old romantic relationship, but it rang true to me as I read it.

    The ending did wrap things up pretty well, but it worked for me. I was satisfied as I closed the book.

  • Scott James

    In general, I enjoyed the book.
    4. “What were your impressions of the men in this book, what did you think about how they were portrayed?”
    Well, there weren’t any strong men in the book, they all came off as a bit lost and hopeless. I thought it worked for the story as she told it, and there’s certainly no obligation to have a strong male character!
    5. “I thought Cami’s storyline was sort of a gutsy one, I don’t remember ever having seen a young woman with a gambling addiction portrayed in literature, or even on TV. It is always either older women (and only Marge Simpson that I can think of) or men. Why do you think Riggle chose to give her a gambling addiction? How did it inform her actions as a character?”
    Cami was my favorite character and storyline. I enjoyed that it wasn’t something I’d ever seen before, and agree that it was gutsy for Riggle to write it. I think the addiction to gambling being one of addiction to putting things on the line and the rush that comes, without the guarantee of winning, was ideal for this book, as that’s what every character did. The irony, to a point, is that the one who really did “win big” was Cami, and she did it with her emotions.
    6. “Multiple old relationships come back to life in “The Life You’ve Imagined,” both romantic and otherwise. Did you think these were portrayed in a realistic fashion? What is realistic to expect from an old friendship? Romantic relationship?”
    I thought she was right on with old relationships. I’m someone who moved away from home and going back 5, 10+ years later is alternately comforting and shocking, seeing who I’ve grown apart from and who I can pick back up with where we left off.
    8. “If you could ask Kristina Riggle one thing, what would it be?”
    I would ask her to write a version of the same story with the men as the main characters, to get the same situations from different perspectives and emotional roller coasters.

  • Laura, I agree with you about Cami. I was a bit disappointed that her gambling addiction wasn’t shown any attempt at resolution by the end. In fact, I almost felt that it was glorified in the scene with her playing Anna’s father’s cronies at poker and winning. Though, I have to remind myself that life doesn’t always end neatly so sometimes books don’t need to always wrap up in a neat little package.

    • Scott James

      It is sort of non-Hollywood-ish to not address Cami’s gambling addiction, or not show her trying to deal with it. Everytime she gambles once home she ends up either winning money or helping the situation. I think it’s realistic to show Cami living with her addiction, as many do, but Maeve moving on from her emotional addiction to her ex. People usually deal for a long time, then grow when they are ready.

  • Yes! I loved that scene with Amy at the wedding! So fabulous. I alos agree that Kris is just a really nice person in general. I’m going to GLIBA next month and she’s going to be there, I can’t wait to meet her in person.

  • Yes! I loved that scene with Amy at the wedding! So fabulous. I alos agree that Kris is just a really nice person in general. I’m going to GLIBA next month and she’s going to be there, I can’t wait to meet her in person.

  • I’ll agree with both you and Laura that I wanted to know more about how Cami’s addiction turned out, there wasn’t a whole lot of resolution about that, but in some ways I sort of liked that. It would have been easy for Riggle to tie things up at the end of 300 odd pages for all the women, but that would have been a little too TVish, I think, going from problem to resolution in 30 minutes flat.

    • I wish that the book had left with her having some sort of plan, some further recognition of her issue. After all, her last two gambling incidents were successful, I can’t see her just going cold turkey at this point.

      I don’t think the book could wrap up all the story lines neatly inside the book, which is why I kind of wish there had been less stories, so we could have gotten more of the ones that were left. But really, if that’s the worst I can say about a book, that I want more of it…

      • I’m at my mom’s and the computer won’t let me respond to specific comments, so I’ll put some thoughts here.

        I think that Laura, Beth C., Scott James and Jen hit on a good point in that Cami’s story seemed unfinished. I think her story would have been more clear/easier for me if at the end, I could have seen some kind of plan or finish for her. The ending seemed to gloss over the fact that she has a gambling addiction. She moves back to a big city, but there is nothing about how she is going to handle the temptations there.

        I think that Amy’s story while finished, does seem a bit unfinished. She’s foght so hard to reach this point, i.e., weight, marriage to the guy of her dreams, etc. What is she going to do the first time something goes wrong? How is she going to handle keeping her weight down if she and Paul ever have children?

        I’ll try to check back later tonight when I am at home and can respond from my pc.

  • My first thought is that the title and the misquote of Thoreau fit this book very well. None of their lives turned out quite as they imagined them. The story showed the characters realizing this fact and accepting it then taking steps to get to where they will be happy with themselves and their life from that point forward.

    I think that Maeve really wanted her life to turn out as she had imagined it when she was younger. The sporadic letters that she would receive from her husband helped her to keep this dream alive. Once she started to realize that he would never change, I believe that she was able to disengage herself from the past and find a way to move forward.

    • I agree. I had a lot of empathy for Maeve. She saw Robert for who he was in the past and didn’t think that he no longer was that same man. Honestly I didn’t think he’d show. But I’m glad he did because it was what she really to finally let go of that dream. Her past was really preventing her from moving forward.

      • Maeve’s is the one story in the book that I thought was prefect– it began and ended at the right time, gave us exactly enough information about what had happened. She was a very real person to me– tough and vulnerable at the same time.

        I was happy she finally had that resolution.

  • I think when old relationships come back to life they almost never go where we’d hope. Most of us aren’t the same person we were in high school but that’s what is usually trying to be rekindled. Our experiences change us.

    I really enjoyed this novel. Who can’t relate?? Because of my age I related to Maeve but I could understand the younger women. My question to KR: Would you consider writing Maeve’s story – from where it leaves off at the end of TLYI? I’d love to see where you’d take her!

    I was very satisfied with the ending.

    I look forward to Ms. Riggle’s next novel.

  • All through the book I wanted Amy to dump the guy, but I thought the resolution was not only perfect, but also very realistic. I think that’s one reason I love KR’s writing. She never goes for drama, she goes for truth and that leads to drama. I feel like as a reader, I can trust her not to do anything fake just for the sake of plotting or the sake of the story or to shock me. This is a very reassuring feeling and I think that’s why people have favourite authors. Not because they want the same thing over and over again, but because they can trust the author to deliver what they promise.

    I always say that KR tackles all the things I normally don’t like about women’s fiction and somehow makes me care. I am pretty sure this comes from the highly developed characters. Thanks for a great read and a great discussion!

    • I’m not sure that I wanted Amy to dump the guy, but I did want her to learn to love herself and I wanted her to be able to let go and not be so obsessed with her weight. I just thought that would be a terrible way to live. I also wondered if he knew the real Amy.

      • I felt like only one of the issues that had possibly derailed the wedding had been addressed. I was happy how both of them handled her not quite perfect body, but his concerns were still there, her one sided baby planning was still there, and neither of them seemed quite ready for marriage.

        I think this was a realistic course of events, but still sad.

        I don’t think anyone, including Amy, knows the real Amy.

  • Debbie D

    This book really made me stop and think about how things could have been and also made question if I would change anything.

    I loved Meave and I felt her sadness and hopes and dreams that her husband would come back. I know how she felt not wanting Anna to know she was writing to her husband. It seemed like she felt so quilty but was wanting Anna to understand. Sometimes it is the hardest for our children to get it.

    I like Amy and felt a little sorry for her, after all who has not wanted the perfect body. All of us as women try so hard every day to lose weight and attrack that prince charming.

    I did like the ending, I thought it wrapped up nicely. I have already given this book to my mom and think she is going to love it. Thanks for letting me be a part of this book club.

  • Anna was the character I could identify the most with. I too am struggling with where my career is headed and not quite sure what to do. I know what I WANT, but still unsure on how to make it happen.

    The misquote is one of my favorite quotes. It fit the story perfectly. Each woman came to a crossroad in life and wanted to make the best decision that would push her forward and on to a new level.

    As for the relationships, I thought early on Anna and Beck would sleep together. Anna had tremendous guilt about this, but I wasn’t so sure how Beck felt. My first impression was it was an easy out of the marriage. I’m not sure how he felt about Anna now. Did he really love her or was she convenient so he wouldn’t be alone? I’m still thinking about this.

    Paul and Amy’s relationship didn’t feel “secure” to me. I was kinda happy when he said he wanted to wait on getting married. I felt Paul only wanted to marry Amy for appearance and to keep up with his brother. I was quite stunned that the wedding even happened. I wish Amy was talked about in the epilogue. I was curious to know what married life was like for her.

    • I was sort of relieved when I thought the wedding wouldn’t happen too, although I was much happier about where they got before it really happened than I was with where they were before they almost called it off.

  • I’m sorry I’m a little late. I just got home from Kristina Riggle’s home town. Hopefully that’s at least a fitting excuse. :)

    I love the title of the book and think it’s fits the book quite well. What you really want is usually a distortion of what you originally think you want anyway.

    I really, really enjoyed this book. My favorite character is Amy and I was interested to see that she was really more of a plot point at first. As someone who’s gained and lost great deals of weight several times over the years, Riggle gets the “skinny” issues down very well.

    I thought that Cami’s gambling addiction was very interesting. It wasn’t something I had expected and I think it carried over into her relationships as well. She always gambled there – especially with her father when she kept going into his room.

    • I love when people who have dealt with some of the same things a character is dealing with can weigh in on how realistic it is!

      (and yes, I think you have an unimpeachable excuse for being late)

  • I do have a question: what was the significance with trailers? Sally lived in one and it burned. Maeve met Robert in one on the land he wanted to buy. While reading, I thought this is important, but I couldn’t figure out why. Thoughts anyone?

    • Great question! I definitely didn’t pick up on that, but that would be a great question for Kristina tomorrow.

    • Scott James

      Good question, Shonda- I’d be interested in hearing about that from Kristina as well. I think of trailers as going along with impermanence of the soul, even if you live in it for a long time and make it your home. Sally and Robert both never settled into anything, always “hitching” onto other people, to varying degrees of kindness, so now that you mention it I’m thinking of that metaphor. Would love to hear what Kristina has to say.

  • I think one of the wonderful things about this novel is that almost every reader could relate to one of the characters. Personally, I liked each of them for very different reasons.

    I was wondering if Ms. Riggle had to do any research on gambling addition (or addiction of any type) before writing about Cami’s character.

  • Ooh, good question. I’ll add that to my list for tomorrow!

  • Sorry that I was unable to discuss this book yesterday, I was busy with a child issue. My head is a bit mush right now so I do not have anything profound to add. I did read through the conversation and found what all of you had to say to be interesting.

    As far as characters go, I think Amy was the one that I hard time with mostly because of her lack of self-esteem. Too much emphasis on outer beauty, and having to have thing just right all in the name of showing others what you have. I think we all struggle with those issues to one degree or another, but I also hope that we all grow and overcome the feeling of needing to look “perfect” and to “have things”. I was pleased that by the end of the book she had grown a bit in that area.

    Cami’s gambling addiction was a different bent on a character for me. I don’t recall ever reading about a character with gambling as an issue. I was curious though, when she did gamble in the book, did she then not have to go back to square one of dealing with the addiction? I am thinking that she struggled greatly, but did not see that.

    The title of the book is fitting. We all have a life we have imagined, and we all have had to make adjustments to that image. It was an interesting journey to see the woman all make adjustments.

  • I was trying to read this one in time to participate in the discussin but life got in the way. I did finish the book this weekend though, I enjoyed the book.

    Amy: I actually have a close friend (who I keep at a distance) who is JUST like Amy. To answer Laura’s thought about not keeping up with the ‘skinny’ after haing a baby…. I don’t see Amy have issues with this, it’s what drives her.

    Anna: I felt I could relate to Anna more than the others but I can’t really explain why. I enjoyed reading about her ‘misplaced’ attraction to Beck. You could see this actually happening and I’m happy it ended the way it did.

    I sadly didn’t care too much about the others (what I mean is that I didn’t have a strong connection to them).

  • […] Unfortunately, not so much. I have little recollection of last Tuesday, other than the AWESOME book club we had right here for “The Live You’ve Imagined” by Kristina Riggle, but […]

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