My Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley is such an enjoyable book. The premise is original and it all revolves around the idea that family is what you make it. And that love can appear in many forms.
I read this book on a plane and if there is ever a must-read books on the plane list, My Ex-Life should be on it. I say that because it’s a good story with well-drawn characters. Sometimes reading thrillers or disturbing reads on the plane, is not a comforting experience. But a likable quick-read is an ideal one to bring on the plane or anywhere you go.
This story is about a man, David, reconnecting with Julie, his ex-wife. Sounds like so many other stories, expect for the fact David is gay. While it’s been decades since they’ve spoken, they’re both at a turning point in their lives. David’s San Francisco rental is about to be sold. Julie is on the verge of losing her seaside house and she has two whole months to come up with the money to buy said house from her second husband before their divorce is finalized. While Julie’s 17-year-old daughter, Mandy, is feeling lost at life and wants to be seen.
When Julie reaches out to David, he immediately has an urge to help her and Mandy. David flies east and they find themselves living under the same roof. David and Julie pick up exactly where they left off thirty years ago―they’re still best friends who can finish each other’s sentences. But there’s still some unfinished business about their past they must address.
The story is told from the perspectives of David, Julie and Mandy. When we get the multi-perspective narrative, we know the intentions of the main characters. And we also are fully aware of what they’re hiding from each other. And there are plenty of secrets in this one. I enjoyed all the perspectives and it helps flesh out the story but I have to stay I like David’s viewpoint the best. For example, he says comments like:
[blockquote align=”none” author=””]”They were probably in their thirties, that awkward age when people still believe they matter and that life is going to go their way.”[/blockquote]
There’s plenty more of those kind one-liners. David’s clever, observant but he also has his heart in the right place.
So, there’s exes reconnecting but not in the traditional way. And there’s also other scenarios that makes this one stand apart. For example, David job is to help rich kids get into the colleges of their parents’ dreams. These parents believe their children are gifted despite mediocre grades and unoriginal essays. David is used to turning an issue into a solution, which comes in handy with Julie’s situation. He also works a bit with Mandy to help her with college admissions. But Mandy is not a typical kid, she’s smart but makes poor grades. And he starts to suspect she might be making a dangerous choice with a guy she’s spending time with. I will say Mandy’s storyline definitely gets a bit out there and weird but it doesn’t take away from the charm of this book.
Another scenario is the fact that to make extra money, Julie has been renting out rooms in the house as an Airbnb. One of my favorite scenes of the book is when Julie has an Airbnb “consultant’ come in to recommend changes to make the house more Airbnb friendly and less prone to sex among guests. Her recommendations are interesting to say the least and that scene is hilarious.