Top critical review
The only real regret should be a life not lived generously
Reviewed in the United States on July 1, 2020
I was intrigued by the premise of this book, but hesitated to pick this up from First Reads because the last thing I want to read right now is someone shoving their political views in my face, but the author actually did manage to keep it close to politically neutral with just a few small slips here and there. Nothing egregious, though I still had no problem figuring out what her political leanings were pretty early on.
The book's ideology IS clearly feminist-themed - some of it authentic Susan B Anthony level feminism & some of it more Gloria Allred. Which means only half of the men are slimes instead of all of them 😉
Cleo isn't all that likeable at the beginning. She really isn't a particularly good person, either. It's interesting to see how she initially reflects on her regrets with her best friend in high school, yet concludes that she'd do it all again.
She counts things as regrets that she's not necessarily sorry for - it reminded me of the dad who once told me about pressuring his daughter to get an abortion, which he said he regretted, but then said he would do it all over again if he had to. That's unhappy acceptance or resignation, not true regret.
So in tackling her old regrets, Cleo manages to discover, or even create, new ones. I liked the idea of repairing or putting one's regrets to rest, & I liked that she wakes up to the wrong she's done & truly comes to regret it. It just felt more than a little surprising that she was only just learning that at 37, and there were aspects of her journey that felt contrived.
Still, it's a positive story - and by the end, she even begins to recognize that people being concerned about you and wanting to help can actually be doing it because they care & want to help - not because they think they're superior or you're weak.
I liked the story concept. It had something worthwhile to propose, but I honestly felt like it didn't cover near as much ground as it could have because it was fixated on being a feminist story more than a universally human one
*POTENTIAL CONTENT ISSUES
The story is totally secular, with casual, recreational attitudes towards sex. Includes the now requisite token gay couple. There is frank discussion, but no graphic scenes or details
Generous amount of swearing: 62 f-words, 71 sh--, 4 d---, 15 h---
Uses the Lord's Name in vain repeatedly, sadly & unnecessarily, including as curses, more than a hundred times.
[Realistic language? Author Lucy Maud Montgomery was asked in her later years about the then modern trend toward more "realistic" writing. Her response was that going to the latrine was realistic, too, yet she had no desire to read about it. The authenticity of a character's voice resides in *what* they say, rather than what the author forces the reader to sift thru to get to the substance]