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VINE VOICEon August 30, 2010
I'm pretty sure that for most of us, there are certain things in our life we wish we could go back and change. I'm sure that there are times when we wish our lives had turned out a different way. I can bet that many of us, when we were younger, did not see us living the way we are now. This book explores those thoughts as two friends return to their hometown, reunite with an old classmate and see how their lives could have been and how they are now.

Ever since I've had to deal with experiences in my own life with an alcoholic/addict, I find myself now feeling empathy for characters who experience the same thing. Therefore reading about Cami's struggles with her alcoholic father was heartbreaking and painful to read. It's so sad to see how the addiction takes control over a person's life and turns them into a monster who wants to do nothing but inflict pain. Ironically, Cami herself suffers from a gambling addiction but I didn't feel as if there was much to that part of her story. Still, I felt drawn to reading her sections the most because I could relate to her, and my heart broke for her.

Anna and her mother both share their stories. Anna is reconnecting with her high school boyfriend who also happens to still be married. Meanwhile her mother has been corresponding secretly with her former husband, who walked on her and Anna years ago. The two are hiding the secrets from each other as they both live the life they thought they should have lived all these years. I was actually a bit surprised to read about Amy's story in this book. She's not mentioned at all on the back cover description so I was rather taken aback when she suddenly appeared in the story. Still I found her sections to be quite interesting as she's a former "fat girl" adjusting to her new life. She's about to get married but is still suffering from low self confidence and is worried about her relationship with her fiance.

All four of the women each bring a unique view to the title of the book. None of them have been living the lives that they dreamed they would be living. Some things turn out for the better, some for the worst but they have to accept it for what it is. It's a great thinking device for the reader too. How many of us are living the live we imagined? Sure, we can regret the way things could have been or we can stop living in our imagination and live our lives as they happen. Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. It's a wonderful book for discussion and I can easily see this book being used in a book club. The book provides an insightful yet entertaining read. I am looking forward to reading Riggle's previous book as well as any that she has in the future.
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Still sarcastic Cami Drayton has come home to Haven though she prefers not to return to the house she hates where her alcoholic father resides and the man she loves Steve is distant. She must deal with an ugly family secret if she is to move on with her life.

Unlike the next generation including her daughter the hotshot Chicago lawyer, Maeve always has lived in Haven, but not because she cherishes the town. Instead she remains in the family home hoping that her husband will return to her; though he abandoned her and the family years ago.

Maeve's daughter and Cami's best friend at Haven High School, Chicago attorney Anna Geneva grieves the death of a dear friend and mentor August Canfield, but fails to cope with her loss. Needing the comfort of family and friends, Anna returns to Haven.

Finally Haven native Amy Rickart figuratively kills herself to be perfect. She has found her perfect match she believes in Paul Becker, but has doubts she is perfect enough as her childhood still haunts her with how imperfect she was and mentally assumes still is.

Rotating first person perspective though at times it is difficult to separate the voices of who leads a chapter, this is a well written and engaging character study as each woman looks back and wonders what if they made a different choice at a pivotal moment. Obviously character driven, the lives intertwine as the women must confront new decision-making life choice.

Harriet Klausner
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on September 6, 2010
Are you living the life you've imagined? In Kristina Riggle's second novel, four women ask themselves this very question. Anna is a lawyer living in Chicago. She left her small hometown of Haven as quickly as she could without looking back. She's made a new life for herself, a life she is proud of. She's worked hard and is up for Partner at her law firm. All this changes when her mentor and close friend, August, dies. Much to her chagrin she's asked to take bereavement leave to cope with her grief. For all intent and purposes, her time home was only supposed to be for a little while. Funny how life can detour your plans.

Cami has also returned home. She and Anna are high school friends. The two woman part ways shortly after graduation. Cami is a tutor and recently broke up with her boyfriend. She has no place to go after he learns of her gambling addiction. Her father is an abusive alcoholic and doesn't care much for Cami's return home. He allows it with a condition: she must never go into his bedroom. Naturally this causes Cami to wonder what is it he is hiding from her.

Maeve is Anna's mother. She owns the Nee Nance store and resides in the apartment above the store. She was once married to Robert, Anna's father, and he left them when Anna was a little girl. Now, Robert is back in her life and wants a second chance. Maeve is hesitant at first, but eventually her love for Robert gets the best of her and she begins answering his letters. Fate may be kind to her this time as his plans to start over come when Maeve's lease for the store is up. Maybe she won't have to spend the rest of her life alone.

Amy is marrying into one of Haven's wealthiest families. Amy feels very lucky to have met Paul. In high school she was quite overweight and none of the boys paid her any attention. Now in her mid-30s, she's lost a lot of weight (thanks to running every morning) and is determined to stay that way. Even if it costs her her happiness.

In her second novel, Riggle examines the dreams and hopes we had growing up and in early adulthood. Each woman is at a turning point in her life and comes to face the question: is this the life that I've imagined? As each woman struggles with this answer, Riggle takes us back to their past to help the reader fully understand the path taken that has brought each woman to the fork in the road. Told in alternating chapters, Riggle does a fantastic job of giving each woman her own voice.

I'd admit after reading Real Life & Liars last year, I had high expectations for her follow-up novel. I'm happy to say not only was I not disappointed, it was just as good or better than I thought it would be. I must warn you though, long after the book ends, you may find yourself thinking about where you are today and the choices you've made that led you to this point. Some of these choices may have been good ones, and some. . . well, may have you asking for a do-over. All in all, I highly recommend this novel.
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on March 20, 2011
I liked this book but felt that there was no resolution to so many of the situations. What did Cami ever tell Trent about the people in the picture? Where did her dad go? What happened to Cami and Anna? The epilogue really didn't give us much on anyone in the story except Maeve.
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on March 9, 2011
Four women in Haven, Michigan find that life in a small town, whether they've just returned or have never left, can be just as tumultuous and disappointing, as it's ever been. Are they living the life they've imagined?

Maeve is the proprietor of the local convenience store and the mother of her daughter, Anna, a Chicago city lawyer. Maeve never thought that the convenience store was going to be her career, but she's been waiting twenty years for her husband to return after he left her and Anna one day with no word. Recently, she's been receiving letters from him, promising her a better future.

Anna has lost a close friend and mentor at the Chicago law firm and has been granted bereavement leave. Returning to Haven isn't easy, but she's not sure where else to go. She's always been strong, almost cold, but coming back to Haven means she might have to deal with her ex-boyfriend, the man who might be the love of her life, who she broke up with before they left for different colleges.

Cami is an old high school friend of Anna, who has recently returned back to Haven with her tail tucked between her legs after submitting to her gambling addiction and stealing money from her boyfriend and losing it all. She returns to her father's home - to a man who doesn't hold back from expressing his emotions of anger and resentment drunkenly and violently. [One nagging little gripe: My only issue with her is that she ends every statement with "yeah." So, for example: "Everything is good, yeah?" I subconsciously began tallying up how many times she ended her sentences like that.]

Amy, once overweight in high school, has now become obsessed with maintaining her successful weight loss. She's engaged to the son of the town's richest developer who happens to be planning to renovate Haven to appeal to tourists and Maeve's convenience store is one that will soon be destroyed. Amy's dream to have her perfect wedding, though, is on track. So she thinks, until the stress of wedding planning and wondering if she's making the right decisions has her doubting. Recently, she's bumped into Ed, an overweight and friendly guy who has a dog that just happens to get along with her own dog. Will the life she's imagined be what she's needing?

Ultimately, I liked this story a lot, even though each character frustrated me with Amy disappointing me completely. I cheered her on and for just a moment, I thought she had grown a backbone, but then...she didn't. With each chapter alternating between the primary characters making it a quick read, and although I wanted just a touch more from specific secondary characters, Kristina Riggle successfully exposes the lives of four women who feel like they just may have missed out on life. After a while, each character finds that there is a beauty and sadness in realizing that it may be possible that the life being lived right now isn't any better or worse than what imagination can bring.

Moral of the story? Make good choices, people. But, no matter what, never look back.
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on June 22, 2011
I rarely don't finish a book, but I was sorely tempted to put this one down and forget about it. I liked the premise, but it just did not live up to expectations. I found the women all annoying and whiny, with few redeeming qualities. I liked the setting though, in Northern Michigan, and thought the author did a good job painting a picture of life there.
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on March 4, 2011
After reading the reviews I was so excited to read this. Without giving too much of the story away, I like to leave a book thinking that the characters make a difference or things are resolved. This book left me frustrated and confused. It is an easy read and doesn't take too much concentration. I guess the title should have said "Life isn't going to turn out like you imagined.
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on January 3, 2013
I tried this author with one of her books and then ordered everything else that she has written because I really enjoyed her style. It also helped that she lives in my hometown and hearing the different town names in that area was nice.
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on February 18, 2013
The stories and feelings described in these characters mirrored my and many if not all of my friends, male and female, as we have marched on. We seem to hold our dreams in front of us yet the evidence of our experiences should help us let go; it really hit home. Good read and hard to put down highly recommended.
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on February 20, 2011
I felt like this book promised so much more in the title, yet it felt like just another story I've read a 100 times... A good book leaves you thinking about it for days after you're done reading it, you won't get that mental stimulation here.
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