Thursday, September 17, 2009

Time of My Life by Allison Winn Scotch

In real life, most marriages don't come undone with one big explosion. Unlike in the movies, most wives don't stumble upon lipstick on a collar or discover a hotel receipt in a blazer pocket. Most wives don't uncover hidden gambling problems or latent addictions or experience out-of-nowhere abuse that pops up one day and destroys everything. Some do, but most, no, not most. Most marriages unravel slowly, slipping drop by drop, like water ebbing through a curled palm, until one day, you look down and notice that it, your hand, is entirely empty. That's how most marriages dissolve and run dry. And it retrospect, it's how mine came undone exactly. (from Time of My Life, page 166)

Time of My Life by Allison Winn Scotch seems like it's going to be a light read, but it really gets you thinking about the choices you make over the course of your life. Jillian Westfield has a seemingly perfect life. She has a husband who makes good money, a beautiful baby, a home that looks like something you'd see in a magazine, and the patience to cook gourmet meals and keep up with the housekeeping. But her relationship with Henry is stale, and when she learns that her ex-live-in-boyfriend Jackson is getting married, she wonders what would have happened had their relationship lasted. One minute Jillian is getting a deep massage and pondering the what-ifs, and the next minute she wakes up and realizes she's traveled seven years into the past. She's back in her job as an advertising director, her best friend who died in a car accident is still alive, and she's living with Jackson in their apartment.

Once she realizes that she's been given a second chance, she slips into her old life easily. She finds that she doesn't miss Henry at all, but she misses her daughter something fierce. As in the past, Jillian must deal with Jackson's overbearing mother and his attachment to her, his lack of ambition when it comes to his writing, and the mother who abandoned her as a child trying to re-enter her life. And she keeps running into Henry everywhere. Jillian thinks she knows how some things will play out, but knowing what the future holds causes her to make different decisions that change everything.

Time of My Life grabbed me from the first page. While I didn't completely identify with Jillian, I could understand how tired she was as a new mother and how tiring it can be when you try to make everything perfect. The story is told in the first person, so you know her every thought as she relives her life and you see her evolve as the months pass. The time travel aspect of the story was especially interesting because I'm sure we all at some point wish we could have a do-over, though maybe not the extent that Jillian wanted one. What I liked best about Jillian was her honesty. She was honest to herself about her loneliness, her doubts about her marriage, motherhood, and her relationship with her own mother, and she was quick to point out her own flaws and mistakes.

I thought the story was well paced and beautifully written, with characters that were well developed, real, and likeable despite their flaws. I liked that I never had the story completely figured out, and Scotch had me guessing until the end. I highly recommend Time of My Life if you've ever asked "What if?" or simply enjoy books that take a light-hearted approach to complicated issues.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Allison Winn Scotch, and I'd like to thank her for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions.

What was your inspiration for Time of My Life?

Well, I'd been contemplating doing a time-travel story, but I wasn't quite sure how to go about it. I mentioned it to my agent, and I think she was deeply perplexed by both the idea and me! But I didn't know how to sort it out in my mind. But then one afternoon while the idea was brewing, my best friend called while she was on vacation where her ex-boyfriend lived, and she said, "I'm so weirded out...I can't stop thinking about what my life might have been like."

Then we had one of those intimate life conversations that you can only have with your closest friends, about her what-ifs and my what-ifs, and I assured her that this was all very normal, even though people didn't really talk about how much they wonder about what could have been. We hung up, and I headed out for a run, and BAM...the idea, characters and plotlines just presented themselves very clearly. I came home, wrote what are now the first 14 pages, and sent them off to my agent, who flipped for them. I think, as so many of us get older and look back on our younger years with nostalgia, it's very easy to consider what the other possibilities could have been -- and I wanted to explore that.

How long did it take you to write the book, and did you encounter any major challenges on the path to publication?

I actually wrote it pretty quickly, in just about two months. Looking back, that seems insane! Especially because the novel I just finished writing took a lot longer -- about 9-10 months. But it was just one of those ideas that spread like wildfire in me, and once I had it, I lived and breathed it until it was all purged on the paper.

Do you have a special or favorite place to write?

I write in my home office in NYC, which I'm very fortunate to have, given the space constraints in this city! I generally write in the mornings, once I've dropped my son off at school and surfed all my necessary pop culture sites. :) I have three nice windows that give me a lot of light, but relative peace and quiet to collect and compose my thoughts.

What are some things you enjoy doing when you're not writing?

Well, I have two kids and a dog, so I'd say that a lot of my time revolves around them! Whether or not "walking the dog," counts as something I technically enjoy is sort of beside the point. :) No, but in all seriousness, I just enjoy hanging out with my family or when I do have some spare moments, I go running, listen to music (I'm a bit of a music junkie), reading, traveling, and anything pop-culture related. Even though I'm a writer, I cop to loving TV and movies. In fact, I also write celebrity profiles, and it's always such a blast to interview actors whose work I love. It's work that doesn't feel like work at all.

What are your 5 most favorite books and why?

Oh gosh, such an impossible question given that so many dear friends are writers, but I'll name a few that have really affected me in the past few years. Fair deal?

Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris -- this was just a book that never in my wildest dreams I could have written. So impressed and amazed by what he did.

Good Grief by Lolly Winston -- this book inspired me to write my debut novel, The Department of Lost and Found. I read it and really understood for the first time, I think, how to put together a well-paced, moving novel.

The Dive From Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer -- just unputdown-able for me. She took a tough sell with her protagonist and made me not only empathize with her but side with her as well.

Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand -- There was nothing I didn't love about this book. She made me a lifetime buyer.

How to Talk to a Widower by Jonathan Tropper -- Oh man, I read this book in about 24 hours. Took it to the dog run, read it over lunch, just couldn't get enough. It was that perfect blend of funny, moving and absorbing. As a too-busy mom, I really look for books that suck me in enough to distract me from EVERYTHING else. That's really why I read, and if a book isn't compelling enough for me to want to neglect something (hee), I often set it aside and forget about it. This book was impossible to set aside.

Thanks, Allison! I wish you much success, and I look forward to reading more of your work in the future.


If you're interested in checking out the other tour stops, click here.

Disclosure:  I received a free copy of Time of My Life from Three Rivers Press for review purposes.


Blodeuedd said...

Great interview and review.
I liked the answer about fav authors, must have a look at those

Ladytink_534 said...

Wow what a neat story! I just love time travel like this. :) Great interview!

Sandy Nawrot said...

This book is making its rounds, and the more I hear about it, the more I really want to read it. It isn't all that healthy to live in the "what if", but it is fun to do it through someone else! This is why I love "The Post Birthday World" by Lionel Shriver. No time travel, but totally a what if thing, and completely brilliant. I'm going to have to get my hands on this one.

Kaye said...

Wow, she must have been really driven to write a book in 2 months. That's amazing! I'd really like to read this one.

have a good week Anna!

Amanda said...

This was a cute book. A little predictable, but I still liked it. It made me think of how difficult young motherhood is. I'm sort of glad my kids have gotten a bit older now...

Iliana said...

This one is going on my list! I love the premise so must read :)

Enjoyed the interview, too!

Jeannie said...

I saw this book the other day at the bookstore. It did catch my attention.

Great review and interview, Anna. :D

bermudaonion said...

The cover does make you think it will be a light read, but once I read your review, I can see it's really pretty deep.

Serena said...

great review. I have heard some great things about this book on the tour. Loved the interview. I spend a lot of time with my dog!

Staci said...

I so must read this book!! Loved your post!

S. Krishna said...

I really enjoyed this book. Allison's writing is simply beautiful. I just read her first book, The Department of Lost and Found, and thought it was one of the best books I've read this year.

Anna said...

~Blodeuedd: Thanks! I have Good Grief on my shelf from a library sale, but I also must check out the others.

~Ladytink: Thanks!

~Sandy: I've heard of the Shriver book and it's one I'd like to check out at some point. Hope you get a chance to read this one.

~Kaye: Thanks! I've been working on a novel off and on for years. Wish I could buckle down and finish it in a couple of months, but I don't think that's ever going to happen.

~Amanda: I thought it was less predictable than books of its kind. When I got toward the end of the book, I wasn't quite sure how things were going to play out. I'm glad for that.

~Iliana: I do hope you get a chance to read it. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

~Jeannie: Thanks!

~bermudaonion: I'm glad it wasn't as "fluffy" as it looks.

~Serena: Thanks. You can borrow my copy when you're ready.

~Staci: Thanks!

~S. Krishna: Glad to hear you loved her other book. I'll have to get my hands on a copy.