Saturday, September 7, 2019

Review: Living the Dream by Lauren Berry

Being a grownup is hard. When our older two children went off to college, we told them that we didn't expect them to know what they wanted to do with their lives at 18. As the oldest moves into the real world, we still don't expect him to know where his path is. Obviously his first job (yay for a fully employed kid!) is the first step on his path but there's no reason to expect that he knows with any certainty where that path will ultimately lead. Even people who have long had a very good idea of what they want to do (child #2 here) don't know how the path will get them where they want to go. And it's the stops along the way to a goal that shape a person, that make them who they are, and if they're lucky, turn them into adults. Lauren Berry's novel, Living the Dream, entertainingly details the life detour main character Emma has to make as she works toward her ultimate goal of being a writer.

Emma works at an advertising agency where she is quite good at her job as a "creative" but is often unrecognized and certainly underpaid and unfulfilled. What she really wants is to be a writer. From her best friend Clementine's perspective, Emma's life looks pretty good as after a year abroad doing an intensive and well-respected but very expensive graduate program, Clem has had to move back into her mother's house and work as a bartender while she waits impatiently to be discovered as the talented screenwriter she is. Neither Em nor Clem envisioned her adult life looking the way it is and both feel stuck waiting for their dreams to come true.

This is a funny and delightful look at the lives of young women in London figuring themselves and their lives out. Emma is struggling personally and professionally, her one glimmer of professional happiness being in the blog she writes on the side, her outlet for truth. Otherwise she is swamped in the tediousness of office life and in feeling like a sellout helping advertise companies in whom she doesn't believe. Clem doesn't want to sell out to the corporate world but she isn't moving forward any faster than Emma and she's always broke to boot. Both Em and Clem want to find happiness and fulfillment, which they try to do through a lot of boozy nights out, dating disasters, and kvetching to each other and their assorted friends but it takes actual movement and risk for anything to actually change in their lives.

Berry has written a terrifically entertaining novel about launching into adulthood, chasing dreams, and finding yourself. Emma is a complete delight and the cast of secondary characters around her are compelling and real feeling.  Clem is billed as a second main character but she really plays second fiddle to Emma in the novel.  There is certainly a lot of true to life angst here but the humor balances it out nicely so the reader never feels as if she's wallowing with the characters. As a mother of young adults, this novel does make me sad to think so many newly minted grownups are so unhappy and stuck in their lives, but it also gives me hope that finding the right path will happen, things will look brighter, and not everything along the way will be terrible. This quirky coming of age novel should appeal to others who remember their twenties with a shudder and a sigh of relief that they are through that fraught time and by those living through it who want to see themselves in these fun-loving but scared to make a move reflections of themselves.

Thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book to review.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I have had to disable the anonymous comment option to cut down on the spam and I apologize to those of you for whom this makes commenting a chore. I hope you'll still opt to leave me your thoughts. I love to hear what you think, especially so I know I'm not just whistling into the wind here at my computer.

Popular Posts