Review: I Liked My Life

Book by Abby Fabiaschi

I Liked My Life is a compelling novel about a family coping with loss. When stay-at-home mom Maddy commits suicide, the entire community is shook, overwhelmed by the possibility of a seemingly happy wife and mother taking her own life. Her teenage daughter Eve is lonely and angry. Her husband Brady is distant and despondent. And Maddy, well, she's watching from limbo and trying to intervene — to lift her husband and daughter out of their grief and into a new reality without her. And maybe into the life of sweet, single Rory.

Narrated by all four main characters, the novel begins soon after Maddy's death, where she discovers she cannot only still watch her family's lives, but she can also influence them by planting thoughts and feelings as strong as real memories — because most of them are.

Her death causes them all to re-evaluate their relationships. Brady thought they had a fine marriage. Eve thought she and her mom were close as could be. Maddy thought Brady had given up caring. Maddy thought Eve had grown away from her. She felt both no longer appreciated who she was and what she did for them. But is that enough? Is that enough for Maddy to take her own life?

With the discovery of Maddy's journal, Brady and Eve hunt for clues, each blaming themselves, yet both clinging onto a desperate hope that there might be a secret so well-kept, it could absolve them of their guilt. They begin building their armor of possibilities, every journal entry another clue that either affirms or fractures the story they've created. 

But within these moments, three broken people are forced to find and face their mistakes and imperfections. Sorrow has unearthed their faults. As their shared history of assumptions, built up under the false promise of more time, is rehashed, each character must carry the responsibility of their actions and inaction. Their family had slowly begun to crumble before Maddy's death, indifferent to the feelings that families require: love, compassion, and forgiveness. If these are baseline, a given, do we need to actively practice them? 

Meanwhile, Maddy is also focusing her energy on the lovely Rory — a kind woman she feels is capable of putting her family back together. We peek into Rory's life too, and see how the constant care of her dying mother, and the apathy of her only brother, creates a lonely, singular-focused existence. She's surviving. But she's not experiencing. Nudges from Maddy move Rory closer to Eve and Brady. As a friendship forms between Rory and Eve, and a potential romance blossoms with Brady, Rory acts as a metaphorical mirror, again making both Eve and Brady look beyond the surface of hurt and into the experiences (good and bad) they shared with Maddy.

All the while, there's still an itchy feeling of mystery surrounding Maddy's death. We explore minor recounts of her life, and touch on her own regrets of not speaking up about her unhappiness and needs, but there's no overwhelming feeling of resentment. So why did she do it?

I Liked My Life is a book about the "unsaids" — about the things loved ones take for granted from each other, and the sacrifices we make around our own happiness out of complacency. Once we stop caring about our own needs, we can no longer show our love to those who still have it. Once we let routine transition into assumptions, we are no longer engaged in our relationships. And as Maddy reminds us, this engagement is the difference between losing love and losing who you are.

 

Rating: 5/5


Love, compassion, and forgiveness are capacities you have to actively engage because experiences will strip you of them if you aren’t careful.
— Eve, via Maddy