Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Next Thing on my List by Jill Smolinski

I enjoyed this book quite a bit.

I read about this book while reading a story about people making lists. I'm a big list maker. Books to read this summer, things to do before I turn 30 (that one passed a few years ago), places to visit, languages to learn, you get the idea.

This book is about a woman, June, drifting through her life. She's content enough, but doing only what she needs to do to get by. She meets a woman, Marissa, at a Weight Watchers meeting, they're in a car wreck and the woman dies. Later, a list is found in the car, "things to do before I turn 25" that belonged to the Marissa. June is well past 25, but she's struck by the list and the idea of Marissa having these goals, and not ever having the chance to fulfill them. It's been a few months since I've read the book, but if I recall correctly, while visiting the cemetery she runs into Marissa's brother and in an attempt to strike up a conversation with him and she tells him that she's decided to finish the list for Marissa.

What becomes apparent is that June has never had a list or a set of goals. As I said, she's drifted through life, letting life happen to her. For the first time ever, she's got a purpose and this changes her.

What I thoroughly enjoyed about the book was the manner in which it was written. June seemed like such a real character. In so many ways, unfortunately, I could relate to her -- settling in a boring job, living alone, drifting. I'm around her age, and constantly faced with the same realization that I stopped living my life years ago, just threw in the towel and decided I'd observe from the side. Throughout the book, she name drops bits of pop culture that reminds me that she's one of my contemporaries. Her surprise of Marissa's love for Trent Reznor, without providing a description of Trent Reznor ... women of a certain age and mindset know exactly what was meant, no elaboration needed, those older and younger, well, this book isn't really meant for them, is it?

Near the end of the book, I thought the storyline got a little bizarre. One item on the list was to change someone's life. She takes on a troubled teenager, and then possibly too caught up in the idea of goals and changing the world gets too involved with the teen, almost destroys her own life in her zeal to save this girl. It all works out in the end, but it seems a little too simple and neat.

In the end though, you feel that June has begun living with a purpose, and that's what matters. She'll never go back to drifting again. She's involved and present, no longer a neutral observer. And that's a whole lot more than I've been able to accomplish in my 32 years of life.

Overall though, I enjoyed the book and would readily recommend it to anyone in need of light, yet inspiring, read.

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