Lillian on Life

Putnam. Jan. 2015. 256p. ISBN 9780399168895. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698152656. F
Women have, for generations, heard talk of the concept of having it all; sexagenarian Lillian can speak knowledgeably on the topic. In a series of vignettes she recounts the decisions she's made that have brought her here, to present-day New York City, along with the importance of self-actualization. From her early years in the Midwest, where she enjoyed a special bond with her father to career and love-life decisions that led to living as an expat in Europe to finding and losing the love of her life in New York, this lively and insightful debut novel (after the author's collection Locked Out: Stories Far from Home) holds up the decisions women make every day to analysis and introspection. It is startlingly frank and sometimes funny or shocking or heartbreaking. There's a raw and intimate quality to the first-person narrative that counterbalances the vignette structure, which is a little hard to get into.
VERDICT While this book is more demanding than typical women's fiction, the rewards are worth the time. It's a strong choice for book groups and readers seeking "something different."

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