Stephen Covey’s famous 7 Habits of Highly Effective People champions the idea of meditating on the end of one’s life — what do you want to have done? … what kind of person do you want people to say you are? — to reevaluate his current stage and actions. It’s a great tool to consider if one is in the right career field or if she’s treating people the way she feels one should; if offers strategies to make the necessary changes if the answers aren’t up to par, too.
I’m reminded of this concept with Fabiaschi’s I Liked My Life since it begins with the suicide of Maddy Starling whom is narrating her puppeteer aspirations from the after life. She liked her life. She enjoyed her family and friends, and she found purpose in volunteering. So why did she not begin with the end in mind and only end all of it? As readers continue through the story, the fictive scenarios beg readers to consider their own lives and how they’re treating those around them as well.
Why did she end it? Who is to blame? These questions and many more permeate the entirety of the narrative for her husband Dave and her daughter Eve. They are left stranded in a quagmire of despair and self-loathing, thinking—as we all likely would—they’re to blame for her unexpected death.
But to what extent do family members really know one another? How responsible are those closest to us for our emotional state and stability? As the narrative plays out, Fabiaschi offers interesting answers to these questions, among others, as readers come to understand just why Maddy would end her life.
For more on I Liked My Life, set to be published by St. Martin’s Press on Jan. 31st, 2017, please continue.
Chapters of the novel are set in tercet-esque style, each one a combination of Maddy, Eve, and Brady’s current situations. Maddy is, of course, speaking from the after life and includes her observations of her family and reflections on her former life. Eve and Dave’s sections are real-time, current descriptions of their depression, questions, and shifts in understanding.
The narrative spans the immediate following of her death, various accidents and misunderstandings afterwards, and the eventual peaceful acceptance of what happened to Maddy. Since Maddy has always been somewhat of a perfectionist, she’s still trying to intercede from beyond; she tries to set her husband up with a “stand in” for her, and she often hints to those she loves about what to do. Forgive her, she says, or Buy Eve a Butterfinger. She’s funny, and she tries to stay involved, albeit oddly, from beyond.
Overall, I personally felt the characters simply did not resonate enough depth. This is in part, I feel, due to the construction of the chapters in three parts. Maddy was the only one to offer somewhat deeper insight (her omniscience, of course, due to her being dead), and the short sections of all the characters just weren’t enough to keep me invested in them as realistic. Their situation was life altering, drenched in despair, and yet as a reader I often felt very distant from their experiences. The crux of reading for me is that it throws me into the thick of another’s experiences and feelings, and I truly didn’t feel that save for a few instances with Maddy.
There were additional parts of the narrative that I didn’t see as necessary — meetings with lost associates of the family, grand gestures of appreciation from one to another. I realize what the author was doing with these parts, but I felt their inclusion incomplete or at the very least unnecessary in their current state (revisions could help their inclusion).
I stare and the sentence for a long time, questioning what it is I want to say. Who was I, really, before my mom died? I was a self-absorbed, materialistic, conceited, naive child. So maybe what I want to say is simply that I’m sorry. Only the person I want to say it to is gone.
I did, however, enjoy the theme. We often do not truly know those that make the deepest sacrifices in our lives; consequently, we often do not know the deepest sacrifices even have been made until it is too late to say “thank you.” It is easy to see one’s own shortcomings with his or her spouse, parent, or child while reading this book, and it definitely made me reconsider some of the ways I go about communicating with my loved ones. If read solely for the reflective aspect on these relationships, it is worth the read.
Fabiaschi struck a chord with an interesting plot concept, but overall I am left wanting much more from the dirge of the narrative. I look forward to similar novels, and I’ll give Fabiaschi another chance should she publish another novel, but this one didn’t hit the mark for me.
I received an advanced reader copy of this novel via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.