I Liked My Life (St. Martin’s Press) opens with Maddy Starling’s observation that she’s found the perfect wife for her husband. His next wife, because Maddy is dead. If that doesn’t grab you, I don’t know what will.
Maddy is trying to move on in the spirit world but she’s also trying to keep her family united as they withdraw from each other in their grief. This novel, written by Abby Fabiaschi, soon reveals itself as a heartfelt exploration into the dynamics of a family in mourning. But this is no ordinary loss. Maddy’s husband, Brady, and their sixteen-year-old daughter, Eve, are trying to understand why Maddy killed herself.
Brady and Eve share the narrative with Maddy, all of them speaking in first-person. This is where Fabiaschi’s talent shines. Fabiaschi brings us deeper inside a character’s head and emotions than you ever thought possible.
Eve’s voice is especially compelling. She is all raw, an unfiltered teenager but also stronger than she realizes. She ricochets between numbness, regret and loss. Anger at her father, anger at herself. At her mother. She tries to work through her own confusion and grief while dealing with her father’s stumbling attempts to be a better parent. Then there’s how her friends treat her. Now she’s the girl whose mother jumped off a building rather than go on living with her family. Once-popular, Eve isolates herself, stops caring about her social life, the cheerleading, her boyfriend. It all feels so trivial compared to losing her mother and no one understands how she feels. Her father should, but he doesn’t communicate well.
As for Brady, he replays scenes from their marriage, wondering what he failed to notice about Maddy, any hints that she was unhappy or depressed. He senses that he had been consumed by his career, but only when he finds Maddy’s diary does he understand the depth of her rage and disappointment at him for breaking vacation promises, failing to show at birthdays and school performances, leaving her to make excuses to Eve on his behalf.
All these narrative threads weave together to build a picture of the Starling family’s life, deftly moving between past and present, from pain to healing, and through it all, the mystery of why Maddy killed herself. Abby Fabiaschi does a wonderful job of infusing searing heartache with humor and wisdom. The pages turn by themselves because she makes us care so much about her characters. This is a book to cherish.
I Liked My Life is available for purchase.
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Abby is a human rights advocate interested in economic solutions to social/cultural problems. In 2017 she co-founded Empower Her Network, an organization that paves a path for survivors of human trafficking with a will for independence by breaking down housing barriers, financing education, and uncovering employment opportunities. You can learn more about her practice of systematic giving here.
When her children turned three and four in what felt like one season, she resigned from her post as a high tech executive to pursue writing. I Liked My Life is her debut novel. With starred reviews from Booklist and Library Journal, I Liked My Life is an Audie Award and Goodreads Choice finalist that has been translated into six languages. She and her family divide their time between West Hartford, Connecticut and Park City, Utah. When not writing or watching the comedy show that is her children, she enjoys reading across genres, skiing, and hiking. Oh, and travel. Who doesn’t love vacation? You can follow Abby on Goodreads, Amazon and Bookbub.