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Review: The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman

Book Summary

In this utterly charming debut—perfect for fans of Cecelia Ahern’s P.S., I Love You and Allison Winn Scotch’s Time of My Life—one woman sets out to complete her old list of childhood goals, and finds that her lifelong dreams lead her down a path she never expects.
1. Go to Paris
2. Have a baby, maybe two
3. Fall in love
Brett Bohlinger seems to have it all: a plum job, a spacious loft, an irresistibly handsome boyfriend. All in all, a charmed life. That is, until her beloved mother passes away, leaving behind a will with one big stipulation: In order to receive her inheritance, Brett must first complete the life list of goals she’d written when she was a naïve girl of fourteen. Grief-stricken, Brett can barely make sense of her mother’s decision—her childhood dreams don’t resemble her ambitions at age thirty-four in the slightest. Some seem impossible. How can she possibly have a relationship with a father who died seven years ago? Other goals (Be an awesome teacher!) would require her to reinvent her entire future. As Brett reluctantly embarks on a perplexing journey in search of her adolescent dreams, one thing becomes clear. Sometimes life’s sweetest gifts can be found in the most unexpected places.


Have you ever had that moment when you feel like you were meant to be at that place and time? Then all of the sudden, in the form of something that seems so unexpected, turns your world upside down but also is the greatest thing that could’ve ever happened. Well, let me introduce you to Brett Bohlinger…

Brett could be anyone you know, maybe even yourself. She has everything on the surface that you could want. She works for her mother’s company making a great living and a good looking boyfriend (not that it really matters but for the sake of the book) that seems to be the center of her world. In her eyes, her life seems fulfilled. Then one day, her world gets shattered upon news of the death of her mother. Having been so close to her, it was as if a part of her left. 

Considering her mother had developed quite a life for herself and her children meant the world to her, it was inevitable that there would be a will leaving generous gifts to them. Everything went well for everyone except when it came to Brett, who was the closest to her, there were stipulations that caught everyone off guard. In order for her to get her inheritance, she had to complete the life list goals that she made when she was a teen. Now, Brett made this when she was fourteen, just to throw out there that she is now 34. You can imagine that every emotion rushed her because she’s not the same person and some of the things on the list seem so unattainable to be completed. Given one year to complete, Brett is sent on a life changing experience that may at first seem to be trivial but turns out to be the greatest gift her mother could’ve left her.

I can count on one hand, the books that I truly fell in love with and this is one of them. This is one of the books that when it ends, your heart smiles. When you start reading the story and see what is on her life list, you might be scratching your head saying what? Is she serious? Like any parent who has a great relationship with their child, it is through their wisdom that we always seek guidance and input in our lives, so there would have to be a great reason why she would’ve wanted this for her, right? When you lose a parent, especially at an age where the most significant moments haven’t happened yet, you yearn for their presence. What grabs you about this story is that for so many who wish they could be there, you live vicariously through Brett because in a way, she gets a sort of second chance even if only for a moment.

My grandmother said something to me one day that I sort of chuckled at. It wasn’t until I read this book that it came full circle for me. She told me one day that she knew me before I knew me. That’s true and through the beauty of this book, we see that between Brett and her mother, Elizabeth. As trivial as the life list may have initially seemed to attain for someone her age, what she learned from attaining them was exactly how well her mother knew her and wanted the best for her. What I loved was how for every time she achieved a goal, she received a letter from her mother that spoke to heart as if she were right there with her. As a reader, it was so enjoyable wandering for every choice she made, what would her mother say. It’s as if she anticipated and knew what would happen and the choices she would make. As much through her journey Elizabeth felt so many whys’, it was this “life list” that gave her the push she needed to carve her own path, to let her fall and rise, and to find true fulfillment and purpose in her life. She truly gained a sense of self.

This is one of those books I encourage every woman to read. There is so much you can take away from reading this story whether it personally relates to you but I’m confident that your take away will definitely be an insightful new perspective that make you look at your life and choices with a fresh pair of eyes. Even though this book is fiction, there is a truth to the purpose that leaves you feeling comforted and reflective. For me on a personal note, I’m close to age as Brett and when you go through the when’s and why’s, the strongest part of this book, many women are victim to living and loving for other people’s approval which constantly leads us to dead ends. When you learn to live life for you and make yourself happy, then you can embrace all that life has to offer. 

This journey that Brett takes is about carving a life. I promise you that you will fall in love with Brett and live and experience her journey through the good and bad, the happy and the sad and all in between. This is the kind of book that you won’t be able to stop talking about not just because I think it is amazing but the imprint it will leave on you will be a memorable one.

Reviewed by Michelle Bowles

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 7/2/2013
Pages: 368

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