I liked my Life. Actually, it sure seemed like Maddy did. So why did she kill herself? That’s the question her husband Brady and seventeen-year old daughter Eve wrestle with in Abby Fabiaschi’s smashing newly released debut novel.
On a snowday in March, I quickly devoured this emotional mystery, knowing, like Maddy and Brady, I had to have the answer. But when my daughter wanted me to reveal the ending, I said she needed to read it herself because it poses great insight and mother/daughter, father/daughter, and husband/wife discussion.
Which is why it’s my next read-eemable. The novel made me consider my goals and feelings about motherhood as a near empty-nester. It also made me wonder why we don’t share what we need in our various relationships and give people opportunities to change. It made me see a picture of the wastefulness of suicide and the wake of sadness it leaves. These prompts make it great for book club discussion.
Fabiaschi structures the novel in first person with multiple perspectives. In the aftermath of Maddy’s choice, Eve, Brady, and even Maddy work out their personal guilt, anger, and grief, taking turns telling their stories.
Maddy was the perfect wife and mom. Or was she? After being raised by an alcoholic mother who commits suicide, Maddy is determined to be a wonderful wife and mother. But she wrestles with guilt about her mother’s suicide and her own perfectionism. Now looking over her family, Maddy’s story reveals a mother still committed to finding ways to ensure her husband and daughter’s happiness. Even going so far as to look for a replacement for herself.
Eve is a teenager more caught up in herself than others; her father works more hours than he should and is often not around. But did their lack of appreciation cause Maddy to jump off the roof of the library? In the months following Maddy’s death, they read through the journal she left behind, piecing clues together, while growing and healing. The relationship between family past and present is probably one of the strongest aspects of this novel and because of the transformation of characters, keep it filled with hope.
What else did I like? Fabiaschi writes wonderfully realistic dialogue. I especially enjoy Maddy’s wit and wisdom sprinkled throughout the novel. The cover is fabulous with the meticulous red shoes matching the red dress and the upside-down woman. Perfection.
But some of the secondary characters seemed unnecessary, undefined and not central to the plot. (Brady’s mom and “family”) The twist ending wasn’t satisfying but on some level it probably made sense. Faith is made trivial because church can be replaced with a family jog, and stay at home moms (Brady’s Mom, Maddy’s Mom, Maddy herself) are doomed for depression. But these two slights offer a “jumping off” place for discussion.
Interesting, Fabiaschi herself formerly rose the corporate ladder in technology but left her job to write when her children were young. When I contacted her, she was guarded with her time, trying to balance all her commitments which also include being the director of a non-profit board that helps survivors of extreme abuse and sex trafficking.
If finding the answer to the question WHY? was just a gimmick, I wouldn’t recommend I Liked My Life. Though the question is a driving force, the book offers insights that prompt discussion in families and book clubs, making it an intriguing and worthwhile read.
Survivors, an international non-profit to uplift sex trafficking victims.