A Life of My Own By Lisa McKendrick
Published by Covenant Communications, 263 pages
Reviewed by Michele Ashman Bell

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I made the mistakes of taking Lisa McKendrick’s new novel, “A Life of My Own” on a recent airplane trip with me.  Several times I burst out laughing, causing the other passengers on the plane to look at me with concern and annoyance.  But I couldn’t help myself.  “A Life of My Own” is jam-packed with clever, witty dialogue that I guarantee will make you laugh out loud.  (Warning: Avoid reading in confined spaces near strangers.)

The story is about Wilhelmina Waterman, better known as Whimsy.  You may have met her in McKendrick’s first book, “On a Whim“.  Whimsy is a freshman at BYU whose life is full of unexpected twists and turns.  The story is told from Whimsy’s point of view which makes for some hilarious and even, insightful, observations as Whimsy deals with the unexpected obstacles life throws her way. 

Lisa McKendrick’s sharp witted dialogue is a delight to read and every character, no matter how minor, jumps of the page as memorable role players in the story.

Whimsy learns quickly that life isn’t fair.  Her mother gets remarried, but without Whimsy’s knowledge, is sealed in the temple to this new husband.  And on top of that Whimsy ends up not getting to room with her best friend, Jill, at college.  So begins her challenges.

Through e-mails and letters we get to know other characters in Whimsy’s life; a friend on a mission (and potential love interest perhaps being saved for another sequel) and an Italian friend who’s a student in Italy (who must have had a bigger role in the first book).

There are many layers in this story created by the secondary lives spun by Whimsy’s friends and family.  And while these stories are interesting and add to the plot and development of the story, and even though I thoroughly enjoyed the humor in the story, I also found that the humor softened the impact of the drama and lessened the emotion in situations; for instance when Whimsy discovers her roommate’s secret, I didn’t feel the concern that situation otherwise might have merited.  Also, my heart didn’t ache like I wanted it to, when Whimsy’s mother has an unexpected health problem. 

I also felt that certain situations were contrived to facilitate the plot, such as when Whimsy feels as though she’s gained some weight during the school year, so she decides to go jogging.  Her exercise outing allows her to bump into an elderly woman whom Whimsy befriends.  Once the woman is introduced into the story, Whimsy never mentions her weight concerns again, nor does she go jogging again.

Because this is a sequel, I did find myself at an advantage at times by not having read the first book.  While some characters and plot lines were easy enough to figure out on my own, it is assumed that the reader knows what’s going on and I felt a little lost at time.  But this is one of the challenges when writing a sequel and for the most part, Lisa McKendrick is successful with her new book.   

But truthfully, these are minor points that I looked for while wearing my “reviewer’s hat”.  Without it, I would have found little to prevent me from thoroughly enjoying, “A Life of My Own,” and the wonderful characters in the story.

I would highly recommend this book for youth, although be aware, it does contain one story line regarding a transgression that ought to be considered when allowing younger girls to read it.  But adults will also enjoy the ensemble cast of wonderful people surrounding Whimsy and her wacky world.  I look forward to the next installment and may just have to go back and read the first book, too!


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