My Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley

My Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley

My Ex-Life.jpg

My Ex-Life
by Stephen McCauley
Flatiron Books (May 8, 2018)
336 pages
Advance copy provided by publisher

David and Julie were once married, very briefly, until David finally acknowledged his preference for men and they parted ways; they haven't seen each other in nearly thirty years but Julie, in the process of divorcing her second husband, reaches out to him to ask for help for her daughter (David has created a business providing guidance to students as they begin the college application process) and they are reunited. 

David's boyfriend has left him, he has gained 20 pounds of misery, and his longterm, affordable San Francisco rental is about to be sold by its owner; suffice it to say, like Julie, he's not in the best situation of his life. The beauty of their reunion, and this story, is that they each become exactly the friend that the other needs.

Julie’s face, in the morning light, had the yesterday’s-dessert look he’d grown accustomed to seeing in his peers and his mirror - everything a little melted, fallen, and shiny - but she had the same long, straight hair and the same demeanor of addled sweetness, most apparent in her bemused and slightly wary smile.

Mandy, Julie's college-prepping daughter, is a noteworthy character, as well; she is talented, insightful beyond her years, and desperate (very relatable, for many of us!) to escape from the embarrassment heaped upon her by the actions of her mother who, as it turns out, has also picked up a little affection for "pot," as it is referred to by Julie. She and David form a unique bond and they each support one another during their respective life stages. 

McCauley does a stellar job of introducing other secondary characters, full of spunk and personality, without the novel feeling bogged down; I never felt like I needed to take notes to keep up with everyone because they all complimented each other so well. 

In that other, earlier life they’d had together, their ex-life, they’d imagined a future ahead of them full of limitless possibilities. Oh, he’d known even then that everything has its limits, but it appeared there was an immense, glittering expanse of time rolling out before them with a bright end point so far in the distance it was unknowable, but easy to picture being as splendid as Oz.

What I loved most about this book was the way in which each character began to endear him or herself to me more and more as the story progressed; they are my favorites - broken people who feel resigned to their fate, only to discover that maybe there is some redemption to be found in the everyday and in the people around them. McCauley reminds us that, even when things didn't go as well as we might have liked in our "ex-life," there is still time for a reset. 

 

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