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The Year We Turned Forty

The Year We Turned Forty

4.4 5
by Liz Fenton, Lisa Steinke

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If you could repeat one year of your life, what would you do differently? This heartwarming and hilarious novel from the authors of The Status of All Things and Your Perfect Life features three best friends who get the chance to return to the year they turned forty—the year that altered all of their lives, in ways big and small—and


If you could repeat one year of your life, what would you do differently? This heartwarming and hilarious novel from the authors of The Status of All Things and Your Perfect Life features three best friends who get the chance to return to the year they turned forty—the year that altered all of their lives, in ways big and small—and also get the opportunity to change their future.

Jessie loves her son Lucas more than anything, but it tears her up inside that he was conceived in an affair that ended her marriage to a man she still loves, a man who just told her he's getting remarried. This time around, she’s determined to bury the secret of Lucas’ paternity, and to repair the fissures that sent her wandering the first time.

Gabriela regrets that she wasted her most fertile years in hot pursuit of a publishing career. Yes, she’s one of the biggest authors in the world, but maybe what she really wanted to create was a family. With a chance to do it again, she’s focused on convincing her husband, Colin, to give her the baby she desires.

Claire is the only one who has made peace with her past: her twenty-two year old daughter, Emily, is finally on track after the turmoil of adolescence, and she's recently gotten engaged, with the two carat diamond on her finger to prove it. But if she’s being honest, Claire still fantasizes about her own missed opportunities: a chance to bond with her mother before it was too late, and the possibility of preventing her daughter from years of anguish. Plus, there’s the man who got away—the man who may have been her one true love.

But it doesn’t take long for all three women to learn that re-living a life and making different decisions only leads to new problems and consequences—and that the mistakes they made may, in fact, have been the best choices of all…

Editorial Reviews

author of Maybe in Another Life Taylor Jenkins Reid
"The Year We Turned Forty manages to be both uniquely magical and deeply real. It is classic Liz and Lisa: charming, fun, thoughtful, and clever; an honest and heartfelt exploration of friendship, love, regret, and redemption."
Camille Pagan
“If life came with a do-over button, could you really change your fate? That’s the question three friends must grapple with when they’re given a chance to relive the last decade of their lives. Wildly entertaining and sparkling with wisdom and wit, The Year We Turned Forty is Liz and Lisa at their very best.”
San Francisco Book Review
“Fenton and Steinke have written a story reminiscent of works by Liane Moriarty or Jen Lancaster. Readers will hope and yearn for the best, even when the characters are at their worst. A great read, this is perfect for book clubs and beaches.”
Woman's World Magazine
"A magical read."
“Hilarious and insightful, these writers have their collective finger on the pulse of what life looks like after 39.”
New York Times bestselling author of On the Island and Covet - Tracey Garvis Graves
Praise for The Status of All Things:
"Pop culture references and a healthy sprinkling of magical realism combine to make The Status of All Things a timely reminder that all is not what it seems. With a sparkling narrative that will have you turning pages at a breakneck speed, this is women's fiction at its finest."
Catherine McKenzie
"I raced through The Status of All Things at a breakneck pace. A perfect blend of what-if and what-should-be, Fenton and Steinke have found a rhythm together that works. They bring that little touch of magic we could all use in our own lives to the page with vibrancy and wit."
internationally bestselling author of A Paris Apartment - Michelle Gable
"Written with heart and keen insight into the influences of social media, The Status of All Things tells the tale of one woman’s quest to change the past. The story gives us magic, a touch of whimsy, and a reality that’s hard to shake. Smart and true with a pitch-perfect ending, it will leave readers feeling satisfied and also asking 'what if?'"
author of WHEN WE FALL - Emily Liebert
“With their razor sharp wit and astute social commentary, Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke—two of women’s fiction’s brightest stars—tackle the question: Would you be truly happy if you could rewrite your own fate via Facebook? And the answer is definitely not what you expect."
New York Times bestselling author of The Good Girl - Mary Kubica
"What a treat! The Status of All Things is a fun, clever and utterly engaging story of love, loss, the power of destiny and the importance of friends. A thoroughly enjoyable read. I loved everything about it, from beginning to end."
New York Times bestselling author of The Violets of March - Sarah Jio
Praise for Your Perfect Life:
“I loved this from the very first line (which will go down in history as the funniest, bravest first line ever). Hilarious, honest and truly touching, Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke are two important new voices in women's fiction who write about life in such a real, relatable way."
New York Times bestselling author - Jen Lancaster
"Your Perfect Life has all of the ingredients that I love in a book—relatable characters who make me laugh out loud, a delicious, page-turning premise, and sweet and surprising insights about the perfect life may be the one you've already got."
author of Heart Like Mine - Amy Hatvany
"Sassy, heartfelt, and smart, Your Perfect Life is a clever take on switched identities that will make you think hard about the choices you've made in your life and what matters most to us all in the end."
New York Times bestselling authors - Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
"For every woman who's ever wondered about the path not taken, Fenton and Steinke mine—with tremendous humor and insight—the mixed blessing of unexpected second chances."
bestselling author of Must Love Dogs and Time Flies - Claire Cook
“Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke blend their voices seamlessly and hilariously and remind us that even though the grass often looks greener under our friends’ lives, nobody gets happily ever unless they go after it. Your Perfect Life is clever, quirky, fresh, and ultimately, empowering!”
New York Times bestselling author of When in Doubt, Add Butter - Beth Harbison
“Liz and Lisa's voices are warm and comforting, like a relaxed chat with great friends while wearing cozy PJ's and sipping wine. I highly recommend Your Perfect Life!"
author of The Best of Us - Sarah Pekkanen
"Your Perfect Life puts a fresh twist on a 'Freaky Friday'-scenario: What if you switched bodies with your best friend, and got the life you'd always secretly coveted? I adore Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke's witty, winning style and gobbled up their debut novel."
Andrea Katz
"Liz and Lisa have done it again. In The Year We Turned Forty, they remind us that life isn't perfect but to appreciate where we are. Their writing has grown dramatically making this their best book yet."
Allison Winn Scotch
Praise for The Year We Turned Forty:
"At once poignant and light-hearted, The Year WeTurned Forty is a spot-on, delightful read for anyone who has ever wonderedabout the road not taken."
Laura Dave
“Funny and poignant, The Year We Turned Forty is a great read for anyone who loves thinking about the road not taken - and the power of female friendship.”
Library Journal
Jessie, Claire, and Gabriela have been best friends forever. They've gone through a lot together, but their joint 40th birthday party sets off events that significantly alter their futures. Jessie decides to tell her husband that the baby she is carrying is not his; Gabriela is determined to become a mother; and Claire is dealing with escalating problems with her adolescent daughter. Ten years later, at a celebration for their 50th birthdays, they are given the chance to go back and relive their 40th year to see if they can change their futures for the better. With things no longer set in stone, the three friends must contend with the problems and consequences their new decisions create. Were the mistakes they made the first time around actually the best choices they could have made? VERDICT Fenton and Steinke (Your Perfect Life) answer the age-old question: If you could do it all again, what would you do differently? A quick, lively, and stimulating tale with highly likable main characters, this book addresses the what-if moments in life. An entertaining read for fans of Emily Giffin and Jennifer Weiner.—Kristen Calvert Nelson, Marion Cty. P.L. Syst., Ocala, FL
Kirkus Reviews
A lighthearted novel—touched with magical elements—exploring the emotional high jinks that ensue when three best friends are given the chance to travel 10 years back in time. Authors Fenton and Steinke (The Status Of All Things, 2015, etc.), longtime best friends in real life, continue their trajectory of frothy, pop-culture-infused women's fiction with the story of Jessie, Gabriela, and Claire, three California women marred by varying degrees of dissatisfaction in their personal lives. Jessie is still riddled with shame about cheating on her husband, Grant, years earlier—an indiscretion that brought about her beloved son and triggered the dissolution of her marriage. Reeling from the news that Grant is newly engaged, Jessie's obsessive thoughts spin into overdrive. Gabriela never thought she wanted kids; a successful author, she was long content with fame, fortune, and the fantastic partner she'd found in husband Colin. But then she realized she wanted more—namely, a family—and, rounding 50, she still finds herself sad about missing her chance. Finally, Claire is excitedly engaged to a man she loves, though she keeps falling into ruminative spells of regret about her mother's death and her troubled relationship with her demanding daughter. After the three best friends head to Vegas to jointly celebrate their birthdays, they're shocked when a magician invites them backstage and offers them a chance to go back in time and redo their 40th year (an especially pivotal time in each of their lives). The women are thrilled—at first. The authors skillfully whisk readers along as the friends attempt to re-create the lives they think they should have had and as they realize some of their so-called mistakes may not have been mistakes after all. A charming but at times predictable novel exploring the importance of friendship and the futility of second-guessing one's past.
From the Publisher
“A new twist on modern day women’s fiction…the integration of magical elements works surprisingly well in this witty story that is much more than charming romance. A fun and fast read for fans of Meg Cabot and Jennifer Weiner.”

Product Details

Washington Square Press
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Year We Turned Forty

  • “Push! Harder!”

    The labor-and-delivery nurse belted out the command as Jessie shook her head defiantly in response, her entire body trembling, sweat and tears dripping down her face, pooling at the base of her neck. Even as the baby crowned, she knew she wasn’t ready for its arrival.

    “I can’t,” she finally managed, her mouth as dry as a ball of cotton. She’d kill for a drink of something that would quench her thirst—in fact, she could vividly picture herself strangling the nurse in exchange for a tumbler piled high with huge cubes of ice and filled to the brim with cold water.

    “You can do this.” Her husband Grant’s breath felt like fire on her ear, his words fast and fumbled, desperation lacing every one. He and the nurse had been having a not-so-subtle conversation with their eyes for the last hour, their concern heightened with every raised eyebrow and pointed look at the baby’s heart monitor attached to Jesse’s protruding belly. “You have to. It’s time. Please, honey.” Grant’s pale skin was glistening under the fluorescent lights, his dark hair matted against his head as if he was the one who’d been in labor for almost twenty hours. He rubbed the corners of his dark green eyes vigorously, and Jessie knew he was searching for the encouraging yet forceful words that would make her want to push the baby out, but his slumped shoulders exposed how close he was to admitting defeat.

    Her pregnancy had been difficult for so many reasons, and Jessie wasn’t one bit surprised that it was culminating in an arduous labor. In her mind, she deserved every painful contraction, every minute that clicked by without relief.

    Jessie could feel her baby fighting its way out now, and she remembered why that severe burning sensation between her legs was called the ring of fire. She tried to concentrate on the hideous paintings of pastel floral arrangements adorning every wall, but the searing pain yanked her back to reality just as her doctor walked into the room, effortlessly releasing the commanding words Grant was having trouble articulating. “This baby is coming—now—and you have a job to do here, Jessie.”

    “Okay,” Jessie huffed before taking a deep breath, gathering a current from deep inside her, and pushing with a force she didn’t realize she had. The baby’s first cries unleashed a tornado of emotions—of joy and sadness, relief and anxiety. As her newborn son was placed on her chest and she inhaled his smell, she was bewildered by how holding her baby for the first time could be both the best and the worst moment of her life.

    •  •  •

    “What do you think is taking so long?” Gabriela glanced at the clock on the wall, her long nails tapping the ripped navy blue armrest beside her, her makeup from the birthday party the night before smudged beneath her coffee-colored eyes. She was still wearing her skintight emerald green dress. Despite the amniotic fluid stain down the side—Jessie’s water broke in a violent burst at Gabriela’s house the night before, splashing off the travertine tile and onto her dress—it was attracting more than a few approving glances.

    “I’m sure it will be any minute now,” Claire declared calmly from behind a tattered copy of an old tabloid magazine. The couple canoodling on the cover had long since split up. “I actually thought because it’s her third kid she’d push like one time and poof, we’d have ourselves a baby.”

    Gabriela glanced at the swinging doors once more, willing Grant to burst through them like a jubilant new father, dispersing candy cigars as he announced that the baby had arrived safely. When Jessie’s water broke, something had cracked open inside Gabriela too—an incredible desire to hold the infant, to nuzzle it against her and marvel at its ten tiny fingers and toes. She’d never wanted children of her own, and had never wavered, not even when her husband, Colin, would place yet another of their friends’ birth announcements in front of her with an expectant look in his eyes. She’d gently repeat her explanation—that she didn’t feel she was meant to be a mother. Then she’d watch the range of emotions ripple across his face—first the frustration that she wouldn’t change her mind for him, followed by the realization he’d never be someone’s father. But ultimately, the love he felt for Gabriela always won out. She’d been honest about how she felt since early in the relationship, and until they had married, she’d thought he had been on the same page. But then he would drop a hint here, make a comment there, and she often wondered when or if he’d finally stop bringing it up. Until eventually, he did.

    Which is when something unexpected happened.

    Gabriela had recently turned forty. When she did, it revealed a hole inside of her she hadn’t known was there. Now, she couldn’t wait to see the look on Colin’s face when she told him she was ready to be a mom.

    •  •  •

    Claire eyed Gabriela discreetly from behind her magazine, watching her carefully cross and uncross her long legs. Gabriela could be described as a lot of things: organized, practical, whip smart, even nurturing. But worrisome and anxious were not words Claire would ever use, and Gabriela’s nervous behavior baffled her. She was surprised Gabriela had not only come to the hospital but waited here this entire time. It wouldn’t have been at all out of character for her to have stayed at the party and visited the baby once it was cleaned, bundled, and sleeping soundly in a bassinet. Jessie had actually tried to convince both of them to do just that. Through clenched teeth and short, heavy breaths, while Grant was pulling up the car, Jessie had practically begged them not to ride with her to the hospital, to please stay and enjoy the party because it was theirs too, the urgency in her best friend’s blue eyes taking her by surprise, almost enough to make Claire agree.

    Gabriela’s, Jessie’s, and Claire’s birthdays fell within a few months of each other—Gabriela in late May, Claire in June, and Jessie in July—and they’d made a vow almost twenty years before, while sipping beers at a dive bar in Newport Beach, their feet crunching the peanut shells covering the floor, to always celebrate together. Last night, they’d clasped hands as Colin toasted them, making a joke that forty was the new eighteen. Gabriela glowed as her husband captivated the crowd, Jessie shifted her weight, nervous and uncomfortable, her bladder signaling she needed to go again. And Claire only half listened as she popped a strawberry into her mouth, shyly making eye contact with a man different from any she’d met before, who’d made her heart flutter when they’d grazed arms and shared small talk at the chocolate fountain earlier.

    Claire’s phone vibrated in her hand and her stomach jumped as she realized the adorable guy she had bantered with last night was now calling. She pulled her magazine up slightly to hide her smile from Gabriela. Forty was starting off right.

    •  •  •

    Jessie squeezed her eyes, fighting the flow of tears that continued to gush from them, like a pipe that had burst inside her. She hugged her baby to her chest tightly, putting her finger inside his hand and watching as he gripped it. She studied her newborn son’s scrunched face, searching for her own features, trying to calm her rapid breath as she instantly recognized the shape of his nose and jut of his chin. She glanced over at Grant. Did he see it too? She had promised herself that she would tell him today. That he deserved to know the truth. She even let herself believe that he might stay anyway, although she was smart enough to realize that it would never be the same, that she’d never again catch him looking at her like he’d just met her and was intrigued by all the things he didn’t yet know.

    Grant pressed his lips to her forehead and combed his fingers through her damp hair. She looked at him hard, trying to etch each angle of his face into her memory, so she could always remember what it was like to have him love her like this.

    “I have something to tell you,” Jessie said in a lowered voice as she glanced at the nurses busily cleaning up.

    “Me too.” Grant gently took the baby from her and cuddled him against his broad chest, his eyes glinting with tears. “I love the girls with all my heart, but I never knew it would feel this way to have a son.”

    Jessie swallowed the words that had been sitting on her tongue and made a choice. She had no idea if it was the right one, but it was the only one she was capable of making. “I’m so glad. He looks just like you.”

  • Meet the Author

    Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke have been best friends for twenty-five years and survived high school and college together. Liz lives in San Diego with her husband and two children. Lisa, a former talk show producer, now lives in Chicago with her husband, daughter, and two bonus children.

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    The Year We Turned Forty 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
    Lisa_RisqueAffair 11 months ago
    "She realized too late that falling in love was the simple part - it was staying in love that seemed to elude most people." When I saw this ebook was up on NetGalley, I jumped to try to get the arc. Three women. Each with their own set of regrets. Their 40th birthdays seemed to be a huge turning point in their lives. What happens when they are given a chance to relive that year and right any wrongs that arose? They soon find that the grass isn't always greener and new decisions only bring up a new set of problems. Will they learn to live with their new choices? Or will they be fine to relive the same consequences? "If you keep waiting around to discover what makes you happy, then you probably never will be." Who hasn't looked back on a mistake of their past and wished they had made a different choice? A better choice? Would you take that chance knowing that it would alter your entire life? We aren't given that chance so we learn to live with the consequences of our actions. We learn to adjust and keep moving forward. Never regret the past because it made you who you are today. But.... I think it's natural to look back and wonder.... Right from the start, this book pulled me in. I'm turning 40 this year, so naturally I'm having those 'what if' feelings. We've all made mistakes. I'm able to relate to all three main characters. To me, that is the benchmark of great writing. I can relate to a character who is so far from my personality. The situations may be something I will never experience but I can't help but find a piece of myself in each of the three ladies. I don't want to give too much away or rehash the synopsis... so just read this one. It's full of life lessons that will get your wheels turning.
    Holly More than 1 year ago
    The Year We Turned Forty is the story of an opportunity to go back in time to change everything. Jesse loves her son Lucas but due to fact that he was conceived in an affair that tore her marriage to Grant apart. Gabriela is married to Colin who desperately wants a baby but Gabriela is too busy becoming a Author to notice. Claire has a 22 year old daughter and is happily engage to the man of her dreams but regrets what had happened in her past to get her to where she can be happy at last. All it takes is a joint 50th birthday party for an opportunity to go back in time for a year in their 40's to change their history and what they would do different this time around. As they soon discover that changing history isn't all what it's cracked up to be and it could mean that nothing will be the same ever again for them or their families. We are left at yet another 50th birthday party with some major changes and three women discovering what it truly means to be happy. OMG, I loved this book and for what the story told. To be able to go back in time to change what happens in the future would be kind of cool but then kinda scary because you never know what will come of that one change you would make in your life. I'm amazed that I haven't read a Liz & Lisa book until now, what was I thinking! These two woman know how to bring a story to life and make you feel alongside what the characters are going through at the time! Thank You to Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke for turning me into a fan of yours from this book forward!! I received this book from the Publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a honest review.
    KrisAnderson_TAR More than 1 year ago
    The Year We Turned Forty by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke is a novel about three women who get a chance to relieve the year they turned forty. Claire, Jessica, and Gabriella are getting ready to turn fifty and have gone to Vegas to celebrate. They meet the celebrity magician, Blair Wainright who gives them a wonderful opportunity. He offers to let the three of them go back exactly ten years and relieve that year again. The three of them have to agree on the choice (it is all for one and one for all). At the end of the year they have to decide to stay there or go back to the future (I couldn’t resist). There are some conditions (of course). Can they make the right choices this time? Join Claire, Jessica, and Gabriella on their journey. Is it possible to change the past to improve your future? The Year We Turned Forty started out pretty good, but then it started slowing down. It got bogged down in should I or shouldn’t I thoughts and discussions (they went on for pages). I found Gabriella to be the most annoying (though it was hard to like any of the characters). The one thing I liked in the book was the Gilmore Girls reference. The Year We Turned Forty had an interesting concept. What would you do if you could change your life? Would you really be able to change it? Sometimes you can try too hard. I give The Year We Turned Forty 3 out of 5 stars. It was an adequate book (it could have been more). I was hoping for something unpredictable or different instead of cliché. I received a complimentary copy of The Year We Turned Forty from NetGalley (and the publisher) in exchange for an honest evaluation of the novel.
    Xkoqueen More than 1 year ago
    A second chance… A “do-over”… A mulligan… Wouldn’t it be nice to have an opportunity to re-do a situation or year of your life that you didn’t handle well or didn’t turn out as you expected? It’s interesting to reflect on what one would expect if given a chance at a do-over. The very lovable characters, Jessie, Gabriela, and Claire have been best friends since high school. Their birthdays are all about the same time, so the have vowed to celebrate them together. I loved these women; they are funny, smart characters. They were each very different in terms of their life experiences, relationships and family situations, but they remain good, reliable friends. My heart ached for their hardships and losses even though some of them were due to their poor decisions. With their combined list of missed opportunities and colossal errors in judgment, they’re lucky to have each other to buoy them through the rough seas. The year they all turned forty, they had their usual big bash, and then their lives were turned upside down by various choices they had or were about to make. They dealt with all of that together. The year they turned fifty, the gals head to Vegas to celebrate the big 5-0. When the women are offered an opportunity to relive the year they turned forty (I love the title tie in!), they hesitantly jump at the chance. Each of the women thought this rare gift would be the chance to keep what they had lost that year. With the wisdom of time and experience, the women know they’d make different decisions. None of them count on the new, smarter choices leading not to immediate bliss, but different problems. It’s decidedly a case of the grass being a different shade of brown on the other side of the fence. Will Jessie, Gabriella, and Claire change their destiny? Or, is their destination set, and they’ll only effect how they reach it? The joy of this book is in the journey, so you’ll have to read the book to find out! The Year We Turned Forty is a beautiful tale about friendship, love, and family. Fenton and Steinke have an easy, relatable writing style. The plot had a nice flow. While their book is peppered with little life messages, it doesn’t feel preachy and it is not horribly overt. “You have to find your happiness in what you already have.” –Jessie Some of those life insights definitely spoke to me, but like Mary Poppins and her spoon full of sugar, they went down easily due to Fenton and Steinke’s enjoyable story. Suspend disbelief and go back in time….what, if anything, would you do differently?
    Laura_at_125Pages More than 1 year ago
    Before I read The Year We Turned Forty I had a chance to meet Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke at the Tucson Festival of Books. They were so nice and gracious I was nervous going into the read. What if I didn’t like it? I loved them, so I hoped it was good. Oh praise all, it was great! Full of emotion, humor and heart The Year We Turned Forty was a read I sunk into and did not get up till it was finished. The plot was very unique. Three best friends are given the choice to go back 10 years and relive their 40th year. They all have issues to fix and they may fix them or forever alter their futures. The writing of Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke was very cohesive. Sometimes when there are co-authors the story can get muddied, but not here. They spoke in the same voice consistently. The pacing did have a few issues as it jumped time periods and between narrators, but it did not distract from the overall theme. The world, built also had some minor issues as it moved between the three main characters, but it did not hinder the tale. The emotions were amazing. Deep and moving, I really connected with the women and felt with them. Speaking of the characters they were great. All three were unique and had their own distinct personalities. I really did enjoy The Year We Turned Forty. Even though it contained one of my hard stop plot lines, adultery, the way it was done fit into the story telling and was not done for shock value. Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke created a read that touched me and moved me. I cannot wait to read another or their works and will keep them on my radar for the future. Original review @ 125Pages.com I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.