A Better Next by Maren Cooper is a well-written story that will likely be relatable to a great many women who’ll find resonance in its story of personal and professional evolution before, during, and after divorce.
Falling squarely into the “women’s fiction” genre, it details a year-or-so in the life of Jess Lawson, a wife, mother, friend, and business woman, who is stunned to discover that both her work situation and longtime marriage are on shaky ground, status that comes to full implosion in the chapters to come. The ensuing chaos this throws into her life is met with a mix of expected heartache, flummoxed uncertainty, and admirable resilience, resulting in a protagonist we can both identify with and admire.
While my reading taste tends more toward darker fare, I thoroughly enjoyed the time spent with Jess and her cadre of strong female friends, who provide her with unwavering support and affection. And despite the not unfamiliar emotional treachery of her husband’s infidelity, she maintains warm, loving relationships with both her grown children, giving her the foundation to rebuild and reset what’s ultimately most important to her.
I also appreciated Cooper’s dive into an industry – healthcare consultancy and medical practices – that I know nothing about it… it’s clear she does! I found the details and sense of realism and authenticity in the various issues and politics of that part of the story to be fascinating, compellingly arcane enough that I had to reread certain sections to fully grasp the issues at hand. But I always enjoy learning a thing or two about a world or a profession that’s new to me when reading a novel, so that aspect of the story was quite interesting.
While the ending came up a bit faster than expected, it’s also possible the “leave them wanting more” tenet was at play, because I did want to know more about where Jess was headed before we left her. But, then again, I’ll always prefer a less buttoned-up conclusion that realistically reflects life’s unknowns and unpredictabilities than one that involves riding off into sunsets!
A very enjoyable read I heartily recommend.