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I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi
Pub. Date: January 31, 2017
Source: ARC via publisher (Thank you, St. Martin’s Press!)
Summary: Maddy is a devoted stay-at-home wife and mother, host of excellent parties, giver of thoughtful gifts, and bestower of a searingly perceptive piece of advice or two. She is the cornerstone of her family, a true matriarch…until she commits suicide, leaving her husband Brady and teenage daughter Eve heartbroken and reeling, wondering what happened. How could the exuberant, exacting woman they loved disappear so abruptly, seemingly without reason, from their lives? How they can possibly continue without her? As they sift through details of her last days, trying to understand the woman they thought they knew, Brady and Eve are forced to come to terms with unsettling truths.

Maddy, however, isn’t ready to leave her family forever. Watching from beyond, she tries to find the perfect replacement for herself. Along comes Rory: pretty, caring, and spontaneous, with just the right bit of edge…but who also harbors a tragedy of her own. Will the mystery of Maddy ever come to rest? And can her family make peace with their history and begin to heal?
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction

On the outside it would appear that Maddy had it all: a husband whose high-profile job enables her the luxury of staying at home, she’s a mother to a smart and independent daughter who will be heading off to college soon, her advice is always poignant and spot-on (whether it’s wanted or not), and she never misses the opportunity to really hammer home a point with song lyrics. Maddy was kind and warm and loving, always full of laughter and sass. …so why did she commit suicide?

Heartbroken and feeling as though their worlds have shattered, Brady and Eve are left to make sense of Maddy’s death and carry on with their lives. But first they have to learn how to live with each other. Until Maddy was no longer there, Brady and his daughter never knew how much of a rock Maddy had been. She was the foundation of their family, the organizer, the mediator. Now father and daughter tip-toe around one another, exiting a room as the other enters, unable to handle awkward conversations that quickly dissolve into arguments.

For her part, Maddy isn’t quite ready to let go. She’s still hanging around and does her part to nudge her husband and daughter together. As she watches over her family, she does her best to comfort them – and ultimately find her replacement.

Hear me out: I was initially hesitant to read this one (a woman who committed suicide and is now a ghost who tries to find her husband a new wife? Really?) but I am so glad I took a chance on this book. Told through the eyes of Maddy, Brady, and Eve, I Liked My Life allows the reader a glimpse into each character’s mind as they battle with their own personal loss: of a family, a wife, a mother. Maddy’s personality was big and booming even after death and I absolutely loved her voice. She was witty and funny, always ready with a sarcastic remark or whispering gentle suggestions to those still living. Brady is overcome with grief, hoping to find answers in Maddy’s diary – every marriage has ups and downs, but did Maddy hate her life to the point that she felt the only option was to jump off the roof of the university library? As for Eve, my heart went out to her. While her friends are eager to exchange gossip and shop for prom dresses, Eve’s grief sets her apart, ultimately making her realize how trivial her friends’ problems are. Twenty years from now (ten, even five) will it matter if your team lost the big game or that the most popular guy in school likes someone else?

Maddy is determined to get her family to move on and she discovers Rory, a recently-divorced woman who ends up becoming Eve’s math tutor. Maddy’s plan? Use the after school tutoring as a way to introduce Rory to Brady, where Maddy will work a little afterlife magic in the form of seemingly out-of-the-blue thoughts, dinner invitations, drugstore run-ins. It says a lot about Maddy and her love for her family that she was so driven to find someone to step into her role as wife, mother, nurturer. Someone Brady can come home to at night, someone Eve can confide in.

As the novel progresses and the truth behind the cause of Maddy’s jump is revealed, I couldn’t look away. I was absolutely glued to the page, alternating between wanting to know more and not wanting the book to end. I’m extremely impressed that this is Fabiaschi’s debut. The characters practically leap off the page and are so wonderfully crafted that they truly felt like people I could run into at the grocery store. The story could have easily given itself over to grief and spiral into the overly dramatic and cheesy category, but Fabiaschi handled Maddy’s death with grace, ultimately making I Liked My Life a novel not full of sadness, but one of hope, of love – I have to admit, I did NOT expect to find myself giggling while reading this book! Don’t let the subject matter scare you off, I Liked My Life is a remarkably sweet, oftentimes funny and tremendously witty novel (with some fantastic shout-outs – Maddy had a great taste in music!) I’m very, very excited to see where Abby Fabiaschi goes from here!

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