Reviewer Ekta Garg: Ekta has actively written and edited since 2005 for publications like: The Portland Physician Scribe; the Portland Home Builders Association home show magazines; ABCDlady; and The Bollywood Ticket. With an MSJ in magazine publishing from Northwestern University Ekta also maintains The Write Edge- a professional blog for her writing. In addition to her writing and editing, Ekta maintains her position as a “domestic engineer”—housewife—and enjoys being a mother to two beautiful kids.
Authors: Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke
Publisher: Atria Books
Two best friends wake up one morning to discover that something made them switch bodies. As they try to navigate one another’s lives, they learn that those lives don’t fit into their preconceived notions and that the definition of a “perfect” life may not be so clear cut. Best friends and authors Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke offer this premise that may surprise readers with its heart and depth in their debut novel Your Perfect Life.
Casey and Rachel, friends since high school, have stopped talking as frequently as they once did. While they both studied broadcasting in college, only Casey got to fulfill the dreams they shared. After working her way up the ladder, she now leads the airwaves as cohost of one of the top celebrity gossip shows. With a personal assistant who doubles as a life coach and most of the stars at her beck and call, on the surface Casey seems to have all a career woman could ever want.
Following an unexpected pregnancy, Rachel dropped out of college to marry her longtime boyfriend. They’ve shared more than two decades, but lately Rachel feels like they’ve become strangers. The fire they once shared has dimmed to a pinpoint of light. Her teenagers give her a hard time as teens are wont to do. Her third “surprise” child leaves her feeling more exhausted than she can remember with her other children. More than anything Rachel wishes she could take a break from it all.
The women meet at their twentieth high school reunion. Both attend with little enthusiasm. Casey struggles with the fact that her love life is as nonexistent as her public life is visible. Rachel doesn’t want to face the classmates who voted her as “most likely to succeed,” because she still grapples with the consequences of relinquishing her own personal goals to raise her children.
Their friendship, too, has stuttered in the last several months, and all of these issues come to a head at the reunion to cause a terrible fight. When someone offers them shots in an effort to create a truce, the women knock back the drinks—and wake up the next morning as one another. Rachel discovers she must juggle interviews with celebrities and the merciless world of TV. Casey begins to understand exactly why Rachel doesn’t have time to get a manicure.
They figure out what happened and give one another crash courses on their personal challenges and successes. Casey’s self-esteem begins to diminish when she witnesses Rachel’s self-confidence returning as Rachel handles the celebrity interviews with increasing grace and ease. Rachel wonders why she doesn’t have Casey’s ability to satisfy her teenagers’ expectations. Both women start to question what they know about themselves and one another, and both learn valuable life lessons as a result.
The friendship Casey and Rachel share most likely came from the blueprint set by the book’s authors, Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke. Despite sharing authorship and two main female characters, authors Fenton and Steinke handle the story with ease. Chapters switch between Casey and Rachel, and all female readers will identify with elements in the lives of both characters.
Admittedly the premise might come across as lightweight, but Fenton and Steinke do a remarkable job of keeping it real. The only thing that feels fantastical is the thing that caused Rachel and Casey to switch places, but Fenton and Steinke don’t let that element of the book dominate its purpose. By the end of it all, readers will sincerely want Rachel and Casey to find happiness while wondering (as the characters do) whether happiness lies in their own lives or each other’s lives.
I would definitely recommend Your Perfect Life for anyone who enjoys women’s fiction.