The Most Likely Club

The Most Likely Club

by Elyssa Friedland
The Most Likely Club

The Most Likely Club

by Elyssa Friedland

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Overview

A Good Morning America Buzz Pick
A Betches Book to Add to Your Fall Reading List
A PureWow Book We Can't Wait to Read in September
A Skimm Reads Pick

A hilarious, heartfelt story about four lifelong friends determined to change their lives, come hell (terrible bosses, ex-husbands living next door) or high water (laundry...so much laundry) from the acclaimed author of Last Summer at the Golden Hotel.


Melissa Levin, Priya Chowdhury, Tara Taylor, and Suki Hammer were going places when they graduated high school in 1997. Their yearbook superlatives were Most Likely to Win the White House, Cure Cancer, Open a Michelin-Starred Restaurant, and Join the Forbes 400, respectively. Fast forward twenty-five years and nothing has gone according to plan. 
 
Reunited at their reunion, the women rethink their younger selves. Is it too late to make their dreams come true? Fueled by nostalgia and one too many drinks, they form a pact to push through their middle-aged angst to bring their youthful aspirations to fruition, dubbing themselves the “Most Likely Girls.”
 
Through the ensuing highs and lows, they are reminded of the enduring bonds of friendship, the ways our childhood dreams both sustain and surprise us — and why it’s never a good idea to peak too early.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593199749
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/06/2022
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 434,794
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

About The Author
Elyssa Friedland is the acclaimed author of Last Summer at the Golden Hotel, The Floating Feldmans, The Intermission, and Love and Miss Communication. Elyssa is a graduate of Yale University and Columbia Law School and currently teaches novel writing at Yale. She lives with her husband and three children in New York City, the best place on earth.

Read an Excerpt

1
 September 2022
 Melissa

"Mom, there's a fire in the kitchen," Cameron, Melissa's teenage daughter, called at the top of her lungs.

In her bedroom, Melissa quickly shut her laptop. She was messaging with a promising guy she'd matched with on one of the apps her daughter insisted she download. She'd let Cameron set up her profile, but she didn't need her know-it-all, attitude-plus teenager getting involved with the correspondence. Besides, what she'd written to CTguy77 wasn't anything too ambitious or quirky. Would luv to meet up wasn't weird, even if she did regret writing "luv" to this man, who claimed to be an English professor-though nothing was for certain behind the curtain of Internet profiles. L-o-v-e would have been the better choice for a forty-three-year-old divorcße with a daughter nine months away from graduating high school. But it was too late. Melissa had quickly hit send when Cameron started shrieking about fire, and now her missive was in the ether, soon to crash-land in CTguy77's inbox.

Melissa ambled down the stairs, not exactly in a rush. Cameron was prone to hyperbole and drama, a trait that emerged hard-core during puberty, a hellacious two-year period that coincided with her parents' divorce. Who had Melissa wronged in a past life to have deserved dealing with a divorce and a hormonally imbalanced daughter'simultaneously?

Melissa paused on the second-to-last step to study the crack in the bottom stair, and then felt her eyes wander to the peeling wallpaper. Their house, once the best on the block, was showing its age. Not unlike her. Getting the place shaped up would mean calling her ex, Josh. She'd rather live with the imperfections than fight with him to send over a carpenter. It pained her that her once blue-ribbon house was now flanked by two new builds, with stylish aluminum roofs and crushed pebble driveways that made her asphalt one look like a parking lot. But not enough to bargain with the man who shared her bed for fifteen years.

"Holy shit, Cam," Melissa yelped when she finally reached the kitchen. This time her daughter had not been exaggerating. Bluish flames were shooting in the air and a cloud of smoke was quickly overtaking the room. "What the hell happened? Get the fire extinguisher."

A tray of charred brownies sat on the counter, the tinfoil edges in flames. Melissa went to tamp them down with dish towels while her daughter moved to the pantry.

Cameron returned with the fire extinguisher and handed it to her mother, as if she were supposed to know how to use it. It was at times like these she wished she had a man at home. Not when she was alone in her bed, nobody to chat with in the moments before sleep descended. Not even when she had to third/fifth/seventh wheel it at a dinner. She missed Josh the most when there was a spider to kill, a tall object to reach, or in this instance, a literal fire to put out. The metaphorical fires had always been on her shoulders. Josh was kind of a dud when it came to dealing with emotional issues, especially where their daughter was concerned.

"Forget it," Melissa said, resting the fire extinguisher on the floor. "I think it's dying down."

Cameron had ripped off her sweatshirt, an overpriced Aviator Nation hoodie she'd begged Melissa to get her, doused it with water from the tap, and used it to put out the last of the flames. The ruined sweatshirt was now soaking in their kitchen sink, at least $100 down an actual drain.

"Good Lord. That was a scare. Why are you baking, anyway?" Melissa asked, hoping she didn't sound judgmental. She assumed her daughter's recent sugar binges were stress-related. Cam was in the midst of college applications, and she and her best friend, Hannah, yapped about "reaches" and "safeties" constantly. Melissa couldn't afford to hire a $300-per-hour SAT tutor for Cam. Instead, her daughter watched YouTube videos that defined words like "garrulous" and "inchoate" while inducing spontaneous narcolepsy.

Homecoming also loomed. Cam was surely anxious about who would ask her, or if she'd be asked at all. Though her daughter was a senior at Bellport Academy, walking the very same halls her mother once did as a teenager, high school felt like a lifetime ago. The hours of sitting in the library with Tara, Suki, and Priya, obsessing over whether they would get invited to this or that party, worrying that a poor performance on an exam would knock them off honor roll, counting the calories in their SnackWell's, were now only scattered memories. Four years seen through a single prism.

Melissa wished she could tell Cameron how utterly insignificant anything that happened in high school was in the grand scheme of life. To reassure her that one day she would barely be able to recall the details of the fights that made her hysterical, and, on the flip side, the achievements that brought on euphoria. But it was only partly true, and Melissa hated to lie to her daughter. The scars of finding a tampon taped to her locker-after she'd, in a regrettable phase where she attempted to sound British, said "bloody ridiculous" in class-were permanent. Some of Melissa's present-day insecurity could be traced to the indignity of not being asked to the freshman dance or the sophomore Halloween party. High school might turn into a blur, but that didn't make it less of a bitch.

For the time being, she decided it was best to say nothing at all.

"The brownies were for the senior class bake sale," Cameron explained. "It's tomorrow. We're using the money to get this insane DJ for the prom. If we also do a bunch of car washes in the spring, we'll get there."

The Bellport Bake Sale. Thankfully it didn't fall under the PTA umbrella or Melissa would be elbows-deep in dough alongside Cam. It was during Melissa's junior year that the annual fund-raiser went from a misshapen-cookies-in-disposable-tins affair to desserts worthy of bougie bakery prices. Suki had the brainstorm-she wanted to bring some ska band to perform at homecoming. Tara did the baking, and suddenly there were lemon squares with raspberry centers, ßclairs filled with key lime curd, and an extra thousand bucks in the student council coffers.

"It sucks they burned. I was making mint chocolate ganache with a toffee crunch. Got the recipe off TikTok." Cam splintered off a piece of charred brownie from the pan and dropped it in her mouth. Crumbs sprinkled the floor and Cam made no move to pick them up. Melissa held her tongue.

She lacked the will to argue. After she and Josh split, her arguments with Cam took on a darker tone. Cameron had a place to run when she got pissed; calling her father to pick her up was a favorite move. And still that was preferable to Kelly would never say that to me. Kelly was Josh's new wife and only twelve years older than Cam. And while Cameron was supposed to hate her stepmother, if any of the Lifetime movies Melissa watched were accurate, she didn't.

"All right, don't worry about it. Bridget's Bakery has nice linzer tortes. We can ugly them up so they look homemade." Melissa reached for a wad of paper towels and crouched on the ground to collect the crumbs. She heard something snap in her back. When she bent over or reached for anything these days, her body responded with orchestral cracks and pops. Middle age, apparently, came with a soundtrack. And choreography. Her discs bulged this way and that, moving like the CDs in the beloved five-disc changer from her youth.

"I love you, Mom. You're the best!" Cameron said, wrapping her mother in a rare hug. Melissa's flesh goose bumped. She so rarely had physical affection. Not from men. Not from her daughter. Not even from friends, who were few and far between. After the divorce, many of the women in her orbit vowed to stick by her. Her closest ally in the mom world, Stacey, had sworn she was eager for company on date nights. "If I have to hear about Zach's golf score one more time," she moaned, sipping Cloudy Bay on ice, Bellport drink of choice for uptight mothers looking to dull the insipid pains of high-stakes parenting. But after one trip to a Mexican restaurant followed by a movie, Stacey never asked Melissa to join them for date night again.

The same went for the others. Her coworkers at the radio station where she was a marketing manager talked about girls' nights that never happened. There were book clubs that got canceled, even after Melissa devoted countless hours to reading whatever novel topped the New York Times bestseller list and was considered required reading in upscale suburbia.

"Should we go now?" Melissa asked, looking at her watch. It was 5:30 p.m. She could race over to the bakery with Cameron and make it back in time to start dinner, then start on the work she'd brought home with her. She was one of two marketing managers at the local radio station and her counterpart, Annie, was on maternity leave, which meant Melissa had to pick up the slack. She refused to resent Annie for being away from work for three months-girl code-though she was certainly staring at the calendar waiting for the weeks to wind down. If only the work was a bit more interesting, maybe she wouldn't mind the second helping of it.

Certainly she didn't aspire to this job when she was younger. Her career aspirations came in this order: princess, firefighter (her inability to operate a fire extinguisher as an adult proved she'd sidestepped a disastrous choice), then politics. Melissa dreamed of going to law school. But somewhere along the way she got derailed. That "somewhere" was actually a "someone" and she was in the same room as her now, still hacking away at the edible edges of a brownie. When Cam was born, Josh's contracting business hadn't taken off yet. He kept getting screwed by subcontractors and material delays that cost money he didn't have. Money they needed to buy diapers, which Cam seemed to shit through at an alarming rate. Melissa took a bookkeeping job, which led to a position at a travel agency that she enjoyed until the Internet ruined it with one-click airfare and hotel. After a few unmemorable stints at other jobs, she wound up in her present position.

"Cam?" When Melissa looked up again, her daughter was halfway to the front door. "Wait for me. I need to get my shoes on."

"It's cool, Mom. I'll just go myself. I'm meeting up with Hannah after. Her mom is hosting some cocktail thing and she'll pay us if we help out."

What cocktail thing? Melissa didn't recall any Paperless Post from Stacey. Melissa shook it off. Did she really want to be in high heels making small talk with the Bellport ladies, likely asked to give a donation to some charity at the end of the night? No, not when she could drink wine in peace and exchange flirty banter with CTguy77 on the FortyPlusLove app.

The front door slammed before Melissa could tack on marching orders: No texting behind the wheel. Drive slowly. Don't park in an empty lot. Hopefully they were imprinted on Cam's brain by now, even if she eye-rolled or unleashed a guttural "uch" every time Melissa dared to express concern for her.

Cam's departure meant she was spared making dinner. Often Melissa felt her life was an endless Ferris wheel of meal prep. First came the menu planning, then the grocery shopping, then the unpacking of the groceries, then the chopping and sautéing and roasting (fine, microwaving), then serving, then the eating, which took all of six minutes, then cleanup. When the last dish was loaded in the dishwasher, it was time to prepare for the next meal.

Tonight the reprieve filled Melissa with more sadness than glee. She vacillated often about the empty nest she would inhabit next fall. So many mother-daughter'skirmishes avoided-their house flooring might as well have been made of eggshells when Cam was home. But it also meant no one with whom to discuss celebrity gossip, seek fashion advice, and wait for on the couch in the evenings. The house would be quiet, just the sounds of her wrinkles deepening to keep her company.

She had family nearby. Her sister, Karen, lived only fifteen minutes away, but she'd been unbearable since she started planning her eldest's bar mitzvah. The party was shaping up to be a combination of a White House state dinner and the Met Gala. Melissa could see her mother for lunch more often. But why subject herself to an hour of Pink isn't flattering on redheads, you know and Shirley Spielman's daughter got remarried only six months after her divorce just for a free meal and some companionship?

Melissa sat down at the kitchen desk and toggled to her email. There was a message from Cameron's guidance counselor. Cameron wasn't the student Melissa had been, so if Ms. Lafferty was reaching out, it wasn't to alert her that Cameron had won one of the numerous prizes that Melissa had collected back in the day. These trophies and plaques collected dust in the attic, along with Josh's old tools and the proofs from their wedding. She earned awards in categories whose relevance to her current life were about as useful as fluency in Swahili. And yet. She wouldn't have minded if Cameron scooped up the occasional prize.

She opened Ms. Lafferty's email and was relieved that it was just a reminder about an upcoming college meeting sent to all senior class parents. She jotted down the date in her calendar and looked back up to find a new email from Dr. Giffords, the school principal.

Dear Melissa,

Back to school already! It feels like summer just ended. We are so proud of Camryn and all she has accomplished at Bellport!"

At this, Melissa blanched. The principal couldn't even spell her daughter's name properly.

As I'm sure you noted from the Save the Date sent in the spring, your 25th reunion is around the corner. We are looking for volunteers from the Class of 1997 to help make this weekend back on campus special. Of course, you were the first person to come to mind. Your track record as the longest-serving PTA president speaks volumes about your energy and organizational skills.

Please let me know if you can find the time in your busy schedule to chair the reunion weekend. I can't imagine anyone doing a better job.

Yours,

HG

Melissa blushed though she was alone. Flattery was her Achilles' heel. It was one of the reasons she'd remained in the thankless job of PTA president for the past eight years, chasing down parents who didn't contribute to the teacher gifts (the nerve of people who ignored Venmo requests!) and never signed up for safety patrol slots. She loved the accolades at the end of the year, the moment when the student government president handed her a bouquet of roses at graduation in gratitude for her service. If Cameron could only experience the joy of this sort of recognition, she would be motivated to be more of a leader in school. But it was a chicken-and-egg scenario. She wouldn't reap the rewards unless she threw her hat in the ring. Which reminded Melissa, there was leftover chicken in the freezer, or she could make herself eggs for dinner.

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