- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Bantam (July 2, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0345540875
- ISBN-13: 978-0345540874
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 756 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #365,943 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Life List: A Novel Paperback – July 2, 2013
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Inspiration for The Life List, by Lori Nelson Spielman
Like any author, I’m often asked how I came up with the idea for my novel. My answer comes easily. The seed for The Life List was found in an old cedar box.
It had been years since I’d last opened my miniature hope chest, a high school graduation gift. The scent of cedar greeted me, along with my first bankbook, my grandmother’s rosary, a couple of silver dollars, and a single sheet of notebook paper, folded into a neat little square.
Curious, I unfolded the yellowed paper. In flowery cursive, Lori’s List was penciled across the top. My abandoned life list.
I was wise enough to include the day and month, March 13th, but foolishly I’d omitted the year. Maybe I hadn’t planned to keep it. Maybe I didn’t realize how quickly memories fade, how years later, I’d barely remember the day that young girl sat on her blue flowered bedspread, contemplating her future. But judging from the goals, what had and hadn’t been accomplished, I was somewhere between 12 and 14 years old.
The crumpled piece of paper revealed a list of 29 things my adolescent mind imagined would make for a good life. I’d also added a sidebar called Ways to Be, which included such pearls as, Don’t talk about ANYONE. Laugh. Say “hi” to everyone.
I’d love to say that all my goals were altruistic and contemplative. In truth, many were embarrassingly self-indulgent and trivial. Have lots of clothes was actually on my life list. Seriously! Be a cheerleader was another lofty goal. (Did I actually think shaking pompoms would be a life changer?) Ah, but I did have Help people on my list. And Give my body to science was thoughtful, right? Never mind that I qualified it with a “maybe”.
Relationships were important to me. A scrawny girl with teeth too big and breasts too small, I was pretty much ignored by the opposite sex. So naturally, Be popular and Have boyfriends were at the top of my list, followed by longer-term goals of Have a good marriage, Have babies, Have a close family.
Even as a young girl, I loved to write and tell stories, yet being an author was not on my life list. In my middleclass neighborhood, in my middleclass town, I’d never met a single author. Authors lived in New York City, or in glass-walled houses overlooking the Pacific. Instead, I hoped to be a teacher, a profession that seemed accessible. And if not glamorous, then at least comfortable.
As I stood reading the list some thirty years later, it pleased me that I did, indeed, accomplish many of my goals. I had made the cheerleading squad (phew, right?). I had my share of boyfriends, though they arrived much later than that young girl once hoped, thank God. I’d graduated from college and learned to ski and traveled to Europe. I was a teacher, a profession I loved. I had a good marriage. I even had a cat. But I didn’t live on a lake. I hadn’t designed my own home. I didn’t have two kids, or a horse, or a dog.
As I read the list, I thought about how different my life would be if I’d fulfilled every goal my youthful heart longed for. In no time, my mind was racing. A story was taking shape. What if someone were forced to finish their life list—a list they thought they’d outgrown?
In the course of several days, my story evolved. First, I came up with riddles from a dying mother, offering her daughter cryptic clues to find her true self. But that was silly. Why the riddles? Why wouldn’t her mother just tell her daughter what she wanted her to accomplish? And it was crucial that the mother didn’t appear heavy-handed or controlling. The story could only work if it was clear that the mother’s intentions came from a loving heart. I also knew the story risked being predictable. I imagined readers rolling their eyes, sure that in the end, Brett would be married to the love of her life and have a baby and a dog and a horse. Her dreams couldn’t be accomplished easily, or in conventional ways the reader might expect. I wanted some goals to lead to others, in circuitous, serendipitous ways. Soon, pages for Another Sky were piling up, becoming the manuscript that would later be re-titled, The Life List.
So there you have it: the kernel for The Life List was my old life list—Lori’s List. Though I fell short of some goals, I believe my list served me well. It’s true, I won’t be waving my children off to college. But I will get to watch my novel set off for parts of the world I may never visit. My book will be introduced to new people, and hopefully entertain, and possibly provoke discussion. And maybe, just maybe, my story will inspire some other little girl, in some other small town, to set her own goals, to aspire to something that’s hers alone. And whether her ambitions are humble or grandiose, silly or pensive, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is, she dreams.
“A wonderful, touching story that reminds us to live life to its fullest.”—Cecelia Ahern, New York Times bestselling author of P.S., I Love You
“Spielman’s debut charms.”—Kirkus Reviews
“You won’t want to miss Lori Nelson Spielman’s remarkable debut, an intensely emotional novel of transformation and trust. It’s about how we let go, and how we never let go. The Life List has great heart, and even greater soul.”─Sarah Addison Allen, New York Times bestselling author of The Peach Keeper
“Irresistible! Everything I love and look for in women’s fiction. A clever, funny, moving page-turner.”─Susan Elizabeth Phillips, New York Times bestselling author of The Great Escape
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Thus, she embarks on a journey of self-discovery that is truly beautiful to behold. It takes very little time for her inheritance to become a complete non-issue; the desire to do good things with her life takes over her motivation. The book is populated with a wonderful cast of secondary characters, some of whom we never get to know very well, others we know are connected, we just don't know quite how. I so enjoyed it.
I had to impose a sizable suspension of disbelief surrounding Brett's mother's letters, but I didn't grudge it. There were threads I would have liked to have seen developed a little more thoroughly--the materialism of Brett's family, for instance--but overall, this was a wonderful book that I gobbled up in just a few days, and which I am happy to recommend.
This list was actually something Brett herself had written (and totally forgot about) when she was 14, and retrieved from the waste basket by her mother. What was her mother thinking?? The two of them had been so close, and now Brett feels totally blindsided.
Some goals will be fairly easy to accomplish (like "Get a dog"). But, what about "Fall in love"? And, "Have a baby"? All within 365 days? You've got to be kidding!
Brett was very angry and confused, but slowly, after accomplishing some of the goals on the list, she begins to appreciate her mother's wisdom. This is a feel good book. It was an enjoyable, easy read. I was thinking for sure it was a 4 star book...
So why have I only given it 3 stars? I got really bored the last several chapters as she was attempting to check off the "Fall in love" requirement. The story turned from a young woman who was finding herself, to all about finding Mr. Right. I found the first search much more interesting. The book went from entertaining to mundane. Not a bad book, just a bit of a let down. If I come across another book by this author, I'll give it a try.
A young girls dreams for her life have somehow faded away.
A dying mother wants her beloved daughter to revisit those dreams. So, she ties her daughter's inheritance to completing the list the daughter wrote as a young girl.
While the, overall, circumstances are rather pat. . . I found the characters engaging and believable and the pacing of the story to be right.
The mother's letters, that followed the completion of each list item, were a brilliant addition to a unique and sometimes emotional story of leaving the comfort zone to take a chance on a more fulfilling, and happier life.
Well done Ms Spielman. A debut of which to be proud! I highly recommend this book to others!