The Year We Turned Forty

A Novel

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About The Book

If you could repeat one year of your life, what would you do differently? This heartwarming and hilarious novel from the authors of The Status of All Things and Your Perfect Life features three best friends who get the chance to return to the year they turned forty—the year that altered all of their lives, in ways big and small—and also get the opportunity to change their future.

Jessie loves her son Lucas more than anything, but it tears her up inside that he was conceived in an affair that ended her marriage to a man she still loves, a man who just told her he's getting remarried. This time around, she’s determined to bury the secret of Lucas’ paternity, and to repair the fissures that sent her wandering the first time.

Gabriela regrets that she wasted her most fertile years in hot pursuit of a publishing career. Yes, she’s one of the biggest authors in the world, but maybe what she really wanted to create was a family. With a chance to do it again, she’s focused on convincing her husband, Colin, to give her the baby she desires.

Claire is the only one who has made peace with her past: her twenty-two year old daughter, Emily, is finally on track after the turmoil of adolescence, and she's recently gotten engaged, with the two carat diamond on her finger to prove it. But if she’s being honest, Claire still fantasizes about her own missed opportunities: a chance to bond with her mother before it was too late, and the possibility of preventing her daughter from years of anguish. Plus, there’s the man who got away—the man who may have been her one true love.

But it doesn’t take long for all three women to learn that re-living a life and making different decisions only leads to new problems and consequences—and that the mistakes they made may, in fact, have been the best choices of all…

Excerpt

The Year We Turned Forty CHAPTER ONE June 2005
“Push! Harder!”

The labor-and-delivery nurse belted out the command as Jessie shook her head defiantly in response, her entire body trembling, sweat and tears dripping down her face, pooling at the base of her neck. Even as the baby crowned, she knew she wasn’t ready for its arrival.

“I can’t,” she finally managed, her mouth as dry as a ball of cotton. She’d kill for a drink of something that would quench her thirst—in fact, she could vividly picture herself strangling the nurse in exchange for a tumbler piled high with huge cubes of ice and filled to the brim with cold water.

“You can do this.” Her husband Grant’s breath felt like fire on her ear, his words fast and fumbled, desperation lacing every one. He and the nurse had been having a not-so-subtle conversation with their eyes for the last hour, their concern heightened with every raised eyebrow and pointed look at the baby’s heart monitor attached to Jesse’s protruding belly. “You have to. It’s time. Please, honey.” Grant’s pale skin was glistening under the fluorescent lights, his dark hair matted against his head as if he was the one who’d been in labor for almost twenty hours. He rubbed the corners of his dark green eyes vigorously, and Jessie knew he was searching for the encouraging yet forceful words that would make her want to push the baby out, but his slumped shoulders exposed how close he was to admitting defeat.

Her pregnancy had been difficult for so many reasons, and Jessie wasn’t one bit surprised that it was culminating in an arduous labor. In her mind, she deserved every painful contraction, every minute that clicked by without relief.

Jessie could feel her baby fighting its way out now, and she remembered why that severe burning sensation between her legs was called the ring of fire. She tried to concentrate on the hideous paintings of pastel floral arrangements adorning every wall, but the searing pain yanked her back to reality just as her doctor walked into the room, effortlessly releasing the commanding words Grant was having trouble articulating. “This baby is coming—now—and you have a job to do here, Jessie.”

“Okay,” Jessie huffed before taking a deep breath, gathering a current from deep inside her, and pushing with a force she didn’t realize she had. The baby’s first cries unleashed a tornado of emotions—of joy and sadness, relief and anxiety. As her newborn son was placed on her chest and she inhaled his smell, she was bewildered by how holding her baby for the first time could be both the best and the worst moment of her life.

• • •

“What do you think is taking so long?” Gabriela glanced at the clock on the wall, her long nails tapping the ripped navy blue armrest beside her, her makeup from the birthday party the night before smudged beneath her coffee-colored eyes. She was still wearing her skintight emerald green dress. Despite the amniotic fluid stain down the side—Jessie’s water broke in a violent burst at Gabriela’s house the night before, splashing off the travertine tile and onto her dress—it was attracting more than a few approving glances.

“I’m sure it will be any minute now,” Claire declared calmly from behind a tattered copy of an old tabloid magazine. The couple canoodling on the cover had long since split up. “I actually thought because it’s her third kid she’d push like one time and poof, we’d have ourselves a baby.”

Gabriela glanced at the swinging doors once more, willing Grant to burst through them like a jubilant new father, dispersing candy cigars as he announced that the baby had arrived safely. When Jessie’s water broke, something had cracked open inside Gabriela too—an incredible desire to hold the infant, to nuzzle it against her and marvel at its ten tiny fingers and toes. She’d never wanted children of her own, and had never wavered, not even when her husband, Colin, would place yet another of their friends’ birth announcements in front of her with an expectant look in his eyes. She’d gently repeat her explanation—that she didn’t feel she was meant to be a mother. Then she’d watch the range of emotions ripple across his face—first the frustration that she wouldn’t change her mind for him, followed by the realization he’d never be someone’s father. But ultimately, the love he felt for Gabriela always won out. She’d been honest about how she felt since early in the relationship, and until they had married, she’d thought he had been on the same page. But then he would drop a hint here, make a comment there, and she often wondered when or if he’d finally stop bringing it up. Until eventually, he did.

Which is when something unexpected happened.

Gabriela had recently turned forty. When she did, it revealed a hole inside of her she hadn’t known was there. Now, she couldn’t wait to see the look on Colin’s face when she told him she was ready to be a mom.

• • •

Claire eyed Gabriela discreetly from behind her magazine, watching her carefully cross and uncross her long legs. Gabriela could be described as a lot of things: organized, practical, whip smart, even nurturing. But worrisome and anxious were not words Claire would ever use, and Gabriela’s nervous behavior baffled her. She was surprised Gabriela had not only come to the hospital but waited here this entire time. It wouldn’t have been at all out of character for her to have stayed at the party and visited the baby once it was cleaned, bundled, and sleeping soundly in a bassinet. Jessie had actually tried to convince both of them to do just that. Through clenched teeth and short, heavy breaths, while Grant was pulling up the car, Jessie had practically begged them not to ride with her to the hospital, to please stay and enjoy the party because it was theirs too, the urgency in her best friend’s blue eyes taking her by surprise, almost enough to make Claire agree.

Gabriela’s, Jessie’s, and Claire’s birthdays fell within a few months of each other—Gabriela in late May, Claire in June, and Jessie in July—and they’d made a vow almost twenty years before, while sipping beers at a dive bar in Newport Beach, their feet crunching the peanut shells covering the floor, to always celebrate together. Last night, they’d clasped hands as Colin toasted them, making a joke that forty was the new eighteen. Gabriela glowed as her husband captivated the crowd, Jessie shifted her weight, nervous and uncomfortable, her bladder signaling she needed to go again. And Claire only half listened as she popped a strawberry into her mouth, shyly making eye contact with a man different from any she’d met before, who’d made her heart flutter when they’d grazed arms and shared small talk at the chocolate fountain earlier.

Claire’s phone vibrated in her hand and her stomach jumped as she realized the adorable guy she had bantered with last night was now calling. She pulled her magazine up slightly to hide her smile from Gabriela. Forty was starting off right.

• • •

Jessie squeezed her eyes, fighting the flow of tears that continued to gush from them, like a pipe that had burst inside her. She hugged her baby to her chest tightly, putting her finger inside his hand and watching as he gripped it. She studied her newborn son’s scrunched face, searching for her own features, trying to calm her rapid breath as she instantly recognized the shape of his nose and jut of his chin. She glanced over at Grant. Did he see it too? She had promised herself that she would tell him today. That he deserved to know the truth. She even let herself believe that he might stay anyway, although she was smart enough to realize that it would never be the same, that she’d never again catch him looking at her like he’d just met her and was intrigued by all the things he didn’t yet know.

Grant pressed his lips to her forehead and combed his fingers through her damp hair. She looked at him hard, trying to etch each angle of his face into her memory, so she could always remember what it was like to have him love her like this.

“I have something to tell you,” Jessie said in a lowered voice as she glanced at the nurses busily cleaning up.

“Me too.” Grant gently took the baby from her and cuddled him against his broad chest, his eyes glinting with tears. “I love the girls with all my heart, but I never knew it would feel this way to have a son.”

Jessie swallowed the words that had been sitting on her tongue and made a choice. She had no idea if it was the right one, but it was the only one she was capable of making. “I’m so glad. He looks just like you.”

About The Authors

Debbie Friedrich Photography
Photograph by Debbie Friedrich

Product Details

  • Publisher: Washington Square Press (April 26, 2016)
  • Length: 336 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781476763446

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Raves and Reviews

Praise for The Year We Turned Forty:
"At once poignant and light-hearted, The Year WeTurned Forty is a spot-on, delightful read for anyone who has ever wonderedabout the road not taken."

– Allison Winn Scotch, New York Times bestselling author

“Funny and poignant, The Year We Turned Forty is a great read for anyone who loves thinking about the road not taken - and the power of female friendship.”

– Laura Dave, author of Eight Hundred Grapes

“A quick, lively, and stimulating tale with highly likable main characters, this book addresses the what-if moments in life. An entertaining read for fans of Emily Giffin and Jennifer Weiner.”

– Library Journal

"The Year We Turned Forty manages to be both uniquely magical and deeply real. It is classic Liz and Lisa: charming, fun, thoughtful, and clever; an honest and heartfelt exploration of friendship, love, regret, and redemption."

– Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of Maybe in Another Life

“If life came with a do-over button, could you really change your fate? That’s the question three friends must grapple with when they’re given a chance to relive the last decade of their lives. Wildly entertaining and sparkling with wisdom and wit, The Year We Turned Forty is Liz and Lisa at their very best.”

– Camille Pagan, bestselling author of Life and Other Near-Death Experiences

"If you had the chance to do one year of your life over, would you take it? Steinke and Fenton have done it again—turned a what-if, magical premise, into a funny, touching exploration of the choices we make and the impact even the little things can have on our lives. A must-read."

– Catherine McKenzie, bestselling author of Hidden and Smoke

“Fenton and Steinke have written a story reminiscent of works by Liane Moriarty or Jen Lancaster. Readers will hope and yearn for the best, even when the characters are at their worst. A great read, this is perfect for book clubs and beaches.”

– San Francisco Book Review

"Liz and Lisa have done it again. In The Year We Turned Forty, they remind us that life isn't perfect but to appreciate where we are. Their writing has grown dramatically making this their best book yet."

– Andrea Katz, Great Thoughts, Great Readers

"A lighthearted novel-touched with magical elements-exploring the emotional high jinks that ensue when three best friends are given the chance to travel 10 years back in time."

– Kirkus Reviews

"A magical read." 

– Woman's World Magazine

“Hilarious and insightful, these writers have their collective finger on the pulse of what life looks like after 39.”

– Bookish

Praise for The Status of All Things:
"Pop culture references and a healthy sprinkling of magical realism combine to make The Status of All Things a timely reminder that all is not what it seems. With a sparkling narrative that will have you turning pages at a breakneck speed, this is women's fiction at its finest."

– Tracey Garvis Graves, New York Times bestselling author of On the Island and Covet

"What a treat! The Status of All Things is a fun, clever and utterly engaging story of love, loss, the power of destiny and the importance of friends. A thoroughly enjoyable read. I loved everything about it, from beginning to end."

– Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author of The Good Girl

“A new twist on modern day women’s fiction…the integration of magical elements works surprisingly well in this witty story that is much more than charming romance. A fun and fast read for fans of Meg Cabot and Jennifer Weiner.”

– Library Journal

"I raced through The Status of All Things at a breakneck pace. A perfect blend of what-if and what-should-be, Fenton and Steinke have found a rhythm together that works. They bring that little touch of magic we could all use in our own lives to the page with vibrancy and wit."

– Catherine McKenzie, bestselling author of Hidden and Forgotten

"Written with heart and keen insight into the influences of social media, The Status of All Things tells the tale of one woman’s quest to change the past. The story gives us magic, a touch of whimsy, and a reality that’s hard to shake. Smart and true with a pitch-perfect ending, it will leave readers feeling satisfied and also asking 'what if?'"

– Michelle Gable, internationally bestselling author of A Paris Apartment

“With their razor sharp wit and astute social commentary, Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke—two of women’s fiction’s brightest stars—tackle the question: Would you be truly happy if you could rewrite your own fate via Facebook? And the answer is definitely not what you expect."

– Emily Liebert, author of WHEN WE FALL

Praise for Your Perfect Life:
“I loved this from the very first line (which will go down in history as the funniest, bravest first line ever). Hilarious, honest and truly touching, Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke are two important new voices in women's fiction who write about life in such a real, relatable way."

– Sarah Jio, New York Times bestselling author of The Violets of March

"Your Perfect Life has all of the ingredients that I love in a book—relatable characters who make me laugh out loud, a delicious, page-turning premise, and sweet and surprising insights about the perfect life may be the one you've already got."

– Jen Lancaster, New York Times bestselling author

"Sassy, heartfelt, and smart, Your Perfect Life is a clever take on switched identities that will make you think hard about the choices you've made in your life and what matters most to us all in the end."

– Amy Hatvany, author of Heart Like Mine

"For every woman who's ever wondered about the path not taken, Fenton and Steinke mine—with tremendous humor and insight—the mixed blessing of unexpected second chances."

– Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus, New York Times bestselling authors

“Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke blend their voices seamlessly and hilariously and remind us that even though the grass often looks greener under our friends’ lives, nobody gets happily ever unless they go after it. Your Perfect Life is clever, quirky, fresh, and ultimately, empowering!”

– Claire Cook, bestselling author of Must Love Dogs and Time Flies

“Liz and Lisa's voices are warm and comforting, like a relaxed chat with great friends while wearing cozy PJ's and sipping wine. I highly recommend Your Perfect Life!"

– Beth Harbison, New York Times bestselling author of When in Doubt, Add Butter

"Your Perfect Life puts a fresh twist on a 'Freaky Friday'-scenario: What if you switched bodies with your best friend, and got the life you'd always secretly coveted? I adore Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke's witty, winning style and gobbled up their debut novel."

– Sarah Pekkanen, author of The Best of Us

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