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Review: What More Could You Wish For

What More Could You Wish For, A novel by Samantha Hoffman (St. Martin's Griffin Press, New York, August 2012 First Edition, 243 pages, paperback) 

Book review by Renee James


America's pop culture and even much of its literature prefers young or youngish people for its romantic and coming of age stories, and why not? Anything is possible early in life, and that makes for great storytelling and steamy romance.

The first thing we learn in Samantha Hoffman's What More Could You Wish For is that romantic relationships and fascinating coming-of-age stories can occur at any stage of life and, in the case of narrator Libby Carson, age fifty is as filled with possibilities as twenty-something.

Libby is turning fifty as the story opens and she has the world by the tail. She is a happy single woman with a successful business that she is passionate about. She has a close relationship with her parents and sibling, and she has the kind of lover many mature women dream about—handsome, successful, unfailingly considerate, and good in bed.

The other thing Libby adores about her lover, Michael, is that he gives her space. They don't live together, they just sleep over a few times a week. After two failed marriages, it is the kind of low-maintenance relationship Libby can handle.

But Libby's laid-back, happy veneer is cracked and broken when Michael proposes to her and begins a well-intentioned but high-pressure campaign to marry her. This precipitates a period of intense confusion for our heroine as she considers what to do with the rest of her life. The smart, secure thing to do is to marry her near-perfect suitor, but she is torn by a rekindled interest in a high school lover, and by a love for her own independence.

The brilliance of What More Could You Wish For starts with the page-turning tension we feel as Libby ponders the dilemma of her life. We don't know whether it will be Michael or Patrick, the high school heartthrob, or none of the above, and Libby's decision-making process is deeply compelling. The book moves with the speed of a suspense novel propelled by a woman confronting the fears and wishes that surface as she contemplates her fiftieth birthday. It captures perfectly the sort of profound decisions that people face when age and experience push them to the other side of middle age and the end of life is closer than the beginning. The decision Libby faces isn't just one man or the other, it's also about taking chances. Should she take a chance on marriage at age fifty? Should she choose the safety and security of a successful and gracious man, or should she pursue another adventure in a life that is just getting interesting?

What More Could You Wish For is a riveting book, and it is also a sweet and lovely experience. Libby is a textured, complex character who is witty, tough, vulnerable, and soft. We enjoy her humor and candor, we admire her courage, and we want her to be happy. We’d love to meet her for coffee to get updates. Most of all, we learn about ourselves as we follow her through this chapter of her life. We weigh the same dilemmas, fight through the same fog of uncertainty, and we come to realize that life doesn't stop at age fifty or sixty or seventy or eighty, that it starts anew every day.

Samantha Hoffman is a Chicago-based runner, author and blogger who writes with an easy, flowing style that moves as smoothly as the plot itself. What More Could You Wish For is her first novel and like many debut works, its path to publication was tortured and circuitous. Let us be glad that it completed the journey. This is a great read for adults of either gender and any age.

Renee James is an award-winning novelist and magazine writer.

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