best-intentions-coverThis part is from Steph: Not that I’ve tried, but I’d imagine it’s difficult to portray a proper Formelry in fiction. So many people veer into caricature territory (cue the pre-cougars and the balding, wife-leaving, sports car-buying dickheads) and fail to paint a subtle picture of what this strange in-between time in our lives is all about. Author Emily Listfield did an great job in her latest novel, Best Intentions (Simon & Schuster). The characters have stuck with me since I read it a few weeks ago. Check this mini excerpt,  in the voice of the main character:

“There are times, graduating college and, I am beginning to suspect, turning forty, when there seems to be an overwhelming impulse to either blow up your life – or cling to it desperately. I smooth my dress with the palms of my hands as I near the midtown restaurant’s gilded front door. The fitted black sheath has been riding up with every step, creating a shelf of fabric across my hips, a visible rebuke to the good intentions I had when I bought it, determined to lose five pounds. I know, of course, that you should never traffic in the currency of hope when shopping, every woman knows that, and yet.   When I was younger I was convinced that the right outfit, the right lipstick, the right attitude could change the course of a first date or sway the mind of man I felt slipping away.  I’m older now, I know better.  Still. I want to be as close to my former self as possible, perhaps we all do, to at least fit into the outlines of who we were when we knew each other best.”

Best Intentions is about the reunion of four friends and lovers as they are about to turn 40. Lisa, the narrator, worries that the malaise in her marriage is a sign her husband is having an affair. Her best friend, Deirdre, is panicking because she is desperate to have a baby.  And Deirdre’s old college boyfriend, Jack, is wondering if he has one last chance to win her back before he settles into the rest of his life. The panic, the ‘last chance’ way of thinking leads to some seriously bad decisions all around.

In truth, I don’t think that we have only  ‘one last chance’ at most things. As I get older, I realize that you may not get do-overs, but there are more opportunities for changing course and re-setting your goals that you might think. (Though there is a difference between deciding to lose five pounds and a sudden desire to ditch your spouse and run off with the guy you met in the grocery store ten minutes ago.)  You also might realize that where you are is not such a bad place after all – if only you stop comparing yourself to others as well as to your previous expectations.  Somewhere between fear of change and the desperate need for instant radical transformation lies middle ground.  At least I certainly hope so.

I know so. Don’t ask me how, but I do.