Title: How to Change a Life
By: Stacey Ballis
ISBN: 0425276627 (ISBN13: 9780425276624)
Author’s Website: http://www.staceyballis.com
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Andra
Eloise is happy with her life as a successful private chef. She has her clients, her corgi, and a recipe for the world’s most perfect chocolate cream pie. What more could she need? But when her long-lost trio of high school friends reunites, Eloise realizes how lonely she really is.
Eloise, Lynne, and Teresa revamp their senior-class assignment and dare one another to create a list of things to accomplish by the time they each turn forty in a few months. Control freak Lynne has to get a dog, Teresa has to spice up her marriage, and Eloise has to start dating again.
Enter Shawn, a hunky ex-athlete and the first man Eloise could see herself falling for. Suddenly forty doesn’t seem so lonely–until a chance encounter threatens the budding romance and reveals the true colors of her friends. Will the bucket listers make it to forty still speaking to one another? Or do some friendships come with an expiration date?
I must say, it has been a long time since I have enjoyed a book so much. How to Change a Life hit all my requirements: well-written, engaging, entertaining, interesting characters, romantic, some angst and lest we forget -> pets and food!
The prologue sets the scene from 1991 when the three friends are entering high school. We are introduced to Mrs. O’Connor (the teacher of Freshman Honors Literature). While the reader’s exposure to Mrs. O’Connor is not vast, I did like her! Her first words to Eloise as she enters the classroom for the first time is – so perfect:
“What’s your name?” “Eloise.” “Don’t slouch, darling Eloise. You own the space you take up in this world. Abraham Lincoln said, ‘You have to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather was.’ You stand straight and proud in every inch of your magnificence. Otherwise you let me and all our blessed sisters of substance down.”
A very interesting idea – Mrs. O’Connor had the class arranged by birthdate. This required the kids to interact with everyone and have at the bare minimum – a short discussion. Now that would have been nice my first day of high school (and junior high as well). Great ice breaker. The order of the students smoothed the way for Eloise to befriend Theresa and Lynne.
The story begins in chapter one with Eloise (a private chef) preparing young Ian to compete on America’s Junior SuperChef. As an individual who likes watching cooking shows (getting my own ideas and all), this definitely held my attention. Ian is one of four children from the family that Eloise has been working for over the past six years. I was totally in awe of this young man and his ability to prepare a pork chop and roasted squash quesadilla with pistachio salsa verde and honey vinegar crema. Now that sound delicious! And this occurred throughout the book. The ongoing dialogue while preparing dishes had me wishing I had a personal chef!
When Eloise learns of the passing of her long ago English teacher, she goes to go to the viewing. At this point in time, it had been 17 years since she had seen Teresa and Lynne. Wow, how time and life just passes one by. So the friends reconnect at the services. “The Three Witches, together again.” (You will understand the reference when you read the book yourself). A week later, they meet at Eloise’s house and it is here they decide to create a list of things to accomplish before they all turn 40 (in honour of a high school project that Mrs. O’Connor had them complete – Fabulous at Forty) and if they don’t complete the list, donate $5,000 in Mrs. O’Connor’s name to a charity. Eloise’s list is comprised of the following:
- Find a new hobby that has nothing to do with food or cooking.
- Create real book proposal for cookbook. And send to at least ten literary agents.
- Find a new athletic endeavor that doesn’t hurt my knee, but keeps me more active.
- Do something social out of the house at least every other week, and at least once a month it must be something with strangers…a tour, a class, places to potentially broaden your cirle of friends.
- Start actively dating … at least fifteen real dates total.
Funny, sad and interesting things happen while each of the gals knock off items on their list. Lynne is the most competitive and wanting to win at all costs…she is fast and furious with working her list. I loved watching each of the gals grow in ways they did not imagine. There is a lot of soul searching as well as analyzing their relationship’s with each other as well as others in their immediate circle of friends and family. But do they all succeed in knocking off their five items on their list? You will just have to read How to Change a Life to find out yourself!
I really enjoyed the slow and steady building of a relationship that develops between Eloise and Shawn. I can’t tell you much more about Shawn, but trust me….it is worth the read! FYI – the depiction of Shawn is delectable. Who wouldn’t want this hunky guy by your side? The reader also gets a solid glimpse at his story and the intricacies as to how and why his life evolved as it did.
The supporting characters within this book are also noteworthy. They provide sage wisdom and advice to Eloise as well as direct her, even inadvertently, to mastering her list before the deadline.
The description of Eloise as a crier is so…well…vivid…and relatable on so many levels:
“I hate crying. In no small part because I am an ugly crier. Like, off-her-meds-Claire-Danes-in-Homeland-on-steroids ugly crier. My whole face gets red and splotchy, my eyes swell up like a pug with a thyroid condition, and my nose runs with thick trails of snot, and I end up spending the better part of six hours looking like I’ve been hit in the face with a bouquet of poison oak.”
Another fine tale told by Stacey Ballis. I was sucked in to Eloise’s life immediately and did not want to stop for pesky things like sleep – so I devoured this book in short order. If you enjoy romance, laughter, food and the sisterhood then I highly recommend this book.
*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*