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Two childhood best friends wake up the morning after their twentieth high school reunion to discover that they’ve switched bodies in this hilarious and heartwarming debut by two childhood best friends.
With “a delicious, page-turning premise, and sweet and surprising insights” (New York Times bestselling author Jen Lancaster), Your Perfect Life perfectly illustrates that old adage: Sometimes, you have to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes to see what’s in her heart.
Best friends since childhood, Casey and Rachel couldn’t lead more different lives. While workaholic Casey rubs elbows with celebrities daily as the host of Gossip TV and comes home nightly to an empty apartment, stay-at-home mom Rachel juggles an “oops” baby, two fiery teenagers, and a husband who barely seems the man she fell in love with two decades before. After an argument at their twentieth high school reunion, Casey and Rachel throw back shots to get the night back on track. Instead, they get a life-changing hangover.
Waking up in each other’s bodies the next morning, they must figure out how to navigate their altered realities. Rachel is forced to face the broadcasting dreams she gave up when she got pregnant in college, and Casey finally steps out of the spotlight to face the real reason why she’s alone. And they soon discover that they don’t know themselves—or their best friend—nearly as well as they thought they did.
Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke bring their “witty, winning style” (Sarah Pekkanen, author of The Best of Us) to every page of this novel that is sure to please fans of In Her Shoes and The Opposite of Me. Your Perfect Life is a story of humor and heart about two best friends, what they didn’t know about each other, and how, by switching lives, each learns to appreciate her own.
|Publisher:||Washington Square Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)|
About 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.
Read an Excerpt
Your Perfect Life
Sidling up to the still-empty bar, I order a double Belvedere and soda. A very young bartender gives me a conspiratorial wink as he sets my drink in front of me, like my boozing is going to be our little secret. I knock it back, and he swiftly replaces it with another. As I give him a flirtatious smile, I hear Destiny’s words ringing in my ears: Flirt with someone your own age! I ignore them. “How are you?” I ask as I take my hand and pin a strand of my golden hair behind my ear.
“I’m great. These are my favorite events.”
“Why? Do drunken has-beens from high school tend to tip well?” I quip, sounding a little more jaded than I intend to.
“Actually, no. You’d be surprised how regret and bitterness inspires cheapness in people,” he says as he wipes the zinc bar with a towel and nods at a man dressed in an expensive charcoal suit who sits three bar stools over. I recognize him as Patrick Sanders, former science club geek who earned a full scholarship to MIT, and then went on to start his own biotech company. I smile and give a small wave before looking away, not wanting him to take it as an invitation to join me. I wasn’t ready to explain why I was one of the few unmarried, childless people here. I drain the rest of my vodka and soda and swish the ice cubes around. I could use about ten more of these.
Patrick orders a Jack and Coke and I watch him sip it greedily. Maybe he’s as nervous as I am. I watch him glance around the crowd, tugging at the knot of his silk tie, a distant look in his eyes. Could his past be gnawing at him as much as mine?
When I received the invitation to the reunion, I’d immediately tossed it into the trash. But then Rachel had called—talking a mile a minute. What was I going to wear? Who was I nervous to see? Wouldn’t it be fun to be there together? When I didn’t respond, I could hear her inhale deeply. And then in a voice that didn’t even sound like hers, she’d said that everything wasn’t always about me. I was surprised not only by her attack—which came out of nowhere—but by how much the words had stung. Still sting.
I thought about what going would mean, the unhappy memories that would try to surface, the emotions I’d have to fend off. In my day-to-day life it was easy not to think about my lack of a family, but being in a room full of people I’d known twenty years ago—people who had other halves and cars with more than two seats—would force me to focus on it. But then I thought about Rachel and all of our shared memories. Even though it was the last place on Earth I wanted to be, I told her I’d RSVP yes. She’s my best friend and that’s what we do; she would’ve done the same for me. At least I hope so.
“Ready for another?” The bartender nods toward my empty glass and I can’t help but stare a beat too long at his deep brown eyes, sun-kissed skin, and sandy blond hair. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think there was a surfboard behind the bar.
“Only if you tell me your name. And the real reason why you love these events,” I say playfully. Patrick hears me and gives me a sideways glance, probably wondering why I’m hitting on a guy half my age, even though he looks like the type who takes out girls so young it prompts people to wonder Is that his date or his daughter?
The bartender begins a long pour of the Belvedere. “My name is Brian,” he says as he slides the cocktail across the bar expertly. “And I love these events because it brings out the best and worst in people. Want to truly see inside someone? Shadow them at their high school reunion.”
I take a long sip of my drink. “Do you really believe that?”
He leans in close. “See that guy over there?” he whispers, bobbing his head in the direction of Patrick. “He has everything. Multimillionaire, private airplane, trophy wife. He runs a Fortune 500 company. He could buy and sell every person here.”
“So?” I whisper back.
“So, he’s downing his drink like it’s water because he’s worried about what you and everyone else he went to high school with will think. That he’s still the nerd that the head cheerleader rejected, the guy the football players bullied.”
“Are you sure you just haven’t been watching too many reruns of Gossip Girl?” I snort and cover my mouth quickly, hoping no one else heard. “Besides, how would you get all that from serving him one drink?”
“You’d be surprised what I know,” he says seductively.
I’m about to ask him what he knows about me when a couple walks up, the man impatiently waving a twenty at Brian. They survey the bar quickly and begin to whisper. Are they talking about me?
Not wanting to know the answer, I turn my back to them and scan the room, taking in my classmates. Some look exactly the same. Others, much older. I shudder at the thought that someone in this room could be judging me and my choice to wear a cranberry red minidress, instead of a nondescript pantsuit, like most of the women here.
The room buzzes with conversation, of which I hear snippets. “I have two kids . . .” “Then we moved to Grand Rapids . . .” “So what do you do?” And I wonder again what it would be like to be able to say I’ve been married for five years, have two kids, live in the suburbs.
I know I should mingle, especially because people will notice if I don’t. But I hesitate. Just signing in and getting my name tag was enough to send me straight to the bar. Yes, I’ve met Jennifer Aniston. No, I don’t know if she hates Angelina Jolie. Yes, I’m pretty much resigned to answering questions like this all night. But part of me is relieved. The more they ask about the latest celebrity gossip, the less they’ll ask about me.
Rachel texts me that she and John are on their way up and I’m glad when I see them walk in, hand in hand. Rachel smiles apprehensively as she makes her way toward me. I take in her simple black dress and diamond earrings, the ones John gave her for their ten-year anniversary. Her shoulder-length chocolate brown hair flows freely and I can see from here that she spent considerable time perfecting her makeup, making her green eyes sparkle. She looks beautiful.
I wave them over and watch the envious glances as they walk my way, one of very few high school sweetheart couples from our class that passed the test of time. Back when I was still wondering which bar was hosting Ladies Night on Wednesday, Rachel and John were getting ready for their first baby. I’d begged her not to drop out of college when she discovered she was pregnant. She was so close to graduation. But no, she’d said, this is my life now.
I signal to Brian the bartender for two more drinks as Rachel and John approach. “Here’s to officially being old,” I call out as I hand one to each of them. John brings me in for a small side hug as he takes a large gulp.
“What’s up, Little C?” he says, using the nickname he gave me in high school. I’d met John my freshman year when I sat next to him in Mr. Roberts’s biology class. He was a total jock who’d transferred from out of state, and I‘d harbored a small crush on him at first. But he was literally speechless when I introduced him to Rachel for the first time at the water tower where we used to sneak to drink wine coolers with the upper classmen. And from that point on, they were an item and I was their third wheel. But I didn’t mind. John always looked out for me like a big brother and some of my best memories were of the three of us together.
I reach over and poke Rachel in the arm. “You look nice.”
She touches her simple black dress self-consciously. “Thanks. You sure it’s okay? I don’t look old?”
“You are the one person who doesn’t have to worry about that. You look exactly the same!”
“What do you mean?” Her tone lets me know this wasn’t the right thing to say. But it’s true. Rachel could throw on her old cheerleading uniform and blend right in, her dark hair still worn in the same style, and not a single crease in her un-Botoxed forehead. Meanwhile, I hadn’t been able to lift my eyebrows properly in years.
John steps in before I can answer. “She means it as a compliment.”
She shoots him a death stare. “Stay out of it.”
John turns to me. “She’s upset about the ballot.”
“The ballot?” I ask.
“You know when you checked in downstairs and they gave you a name tag? They also handed out a ballot. We’re supposed to vote—”
Rachel cuts him off. “We’re supposed to vote on things like who traveled the farthest . . .”
“Well, I can see how that would be incredibly upsetting,” I say, laughing.
“Let me finish. There’s also other awards like most successful and least successful.”
“Least successful? Are you kidding me?” Brian was right. These things really do bring out the worst in people.
“No. There’s not a least successful award. That’s just what Rachel thinks it is.” John rolls his eyes like she’s not standing there. “It’s called Least Changed.”
“Same thing.” Rachel crosses her arms over her chest looking even more like an eighteen-year-old.
“Anyway,” John continues. “Since the moment we checked in, people have been marveling at how she hasn’t changed a bit and she’s afraid she’ll win the award.”
“Didn’t you guys just get here? Like five minutes ago?”
“All the more reason why I think I’m going to win,” Rachel says, looking terrified.
“Well, all I meant when I said that you looked the same is that you look beautiful. And if you win, the reason will be because you haven’t changed, not because you’re not successful.” I touch her arm gently to let her know I mean it, but she looks away. John and I exchange a look. Rachel’s in a mood tonight. I swallow the lump that’s been building in my throat since I rode up in the elevator with two couples bantering about how lucky they were to have found a babysitter while I’d stared down at the velvet five-inch stilettos that were already pinching my pinkie toes, the pain a welcome distraction from the chatter around me. How could she not realize that this night might be hard for me too?
“Rachel! Casey! John! Of course I’d find the three of you together. I mean, how crazy that nothing has changed in twenty years!” Class president, head cheerleader, and resident mean girl Julie Meyers bounces up looking nothing like her high school self, an extra fifty pounds hanging from her formerly petite frame. I think about Patrick Sanders drowning his high school memories of being rejected by her in a stiff drink and want to tell him he’s better off.
“Wow, y’all look great!” She grabs Rachel and twirls her around. “Girl, you look exactly the same!”
John and I share another look. I signal Brian for another round. He gives me a knowing look. See, I told you this brings out the worst in people. I roll my eyes at him.
But once the drinks kick in, it seems like everyone’s having fun, even Rachel. I’ve been trying to follow Destiny’s advice, even hauling my ass off the bar stool and flirting with a few men my own age. Apparently, this twenty-year reunion is packed with recent divorcées. I had felt some apprehension about coming here without ever having been married, but now I wonder if it was worse to come here saying you tried and failed. I try to keep the smile pasted on my face as they discuss their child custody schedule and bitterness over alimony payments and think that while twenty-somethings may be lacking in maturity, at least they don’t have this kind of baggage.
I try to catch Rachel’s eye from across the room. I’m trapped talking to the former chess club president and his wife and I think they’re pitching me some sort of chess reality show, but I tuned out a few minutes ago when the DJ started playing Cutting Crew. She finally comes over to rescue me. She’s much more relaxed than she was earlier, her cheeks are flushed, and her eyes are shiny from the alcohol. I’m reminded again of the girl who charmed John at the water tower so many years ago.
“Are you having fun yet?” I ask tentatively, looking for signs that her insecurities from earlier are gone. She’d seemed down lately and I certainly hadn’t succeeded in making her feel better, not that I’d tried that hard. Our conversations only seem to go from bad to worse because I can never say—or as in the case of the phone call about this reunion—not say—the right thing. I definitely don’t know what to tell her when she complains about Charlotte being up all night or Sophie throwing a tantrum over some outfit. I just listen, because what am I supposed to say? I don’t get what’s that stressful about her life. We were both broadcasting majors in college, but I often think that even though she was immensely talented, Rachel would have gotten eaten alive had she ended up with a career in TV.
“You know what? I am having a good time,” Rachel says as she loops her arm through mine, making me miss the girls we used to be.
“Where’s John?” I ask, glancing around before finding him leaning against the bar talking to a woman whose name I can’t remember. By the way he’s gesturing, it’s clear he’s telling a story, and by the way she’s leaning in, just a little too close, it’s obvious she’d listen to that story on repeat for hours. John’s always been a good-looking guy who, at six foot four, has turned more than his share of heads. I remember in high school and college Rachel used to get so jealous, secretly confiding in me that she wondered if she was pretty enough for him. And of course she was—and still is.
I elbow Rachel. “Look at that woman throwing herself at John; so pathetic. I should go over there and save him.” I motion toward the nameless woman with the large, hungry eyes who looks like she wants to take a big bite out of him.
She waves it off. “Oh please. Let him have the attention. We’ve been together forever and we’re so boring. Boring as hell.” She smiles and twirls the straw in her empty glass. “Ready for another drink?”
“Welcome, everyone!” Julie Meyers is up at the podium demanding our attention. “It’s time for the awards!”
Rachel stiffens and John walks back to us and drapes his arms around her possessively. She leans into him and exhales and I feel a pang in my stomach. Even if it’s boring as hell, it must be nice to be someone’s someone. Someone you can exhale into.
Julie starts calling out the awards: Most Likely to Star in a Reality Show on Bravo; Person with the Fewest Original Body Parts; and my favorite, The Number-One MILF and Number-One DILF. People are running up to the stage with the excitement of an audience member selected to be on The Price Is Right.
“I think you showed less emotion when you won your Emmy last year!” Rachel whispers to me and we share a laugh.
“Okay, next up, our most successful graduate. Now I think we can all guess who this is!” Julie locks eyes with me as she calls my name. “Casey Lee, get up here!”
I look over at Rachel and John. John is whistling and Rachel’s face is frozen until I catch her eye and she quickly composes herself and starts to clap. I walk up to the podium and grab my award, say a hurried thank-you, and head back down as quickly as possible, Rachel’s expressionless face etched in my mind. “It’s nothing,” I say to her when I return, trying to let her know that she wouldn’t have been so upset that I won if she understood how much I’ve given up to get it. She nods silently and looks away.
I look over to my right and watch Patrick Sanders walking dejectedly over to the bar. How the hell did I win this over him? He could buy this hotel if he wanted. Brian has his drink waiting when he walks up and looks over at me with a knowing smile that says I told you so.
Julie’s voice shrills over the microphone again. “And now for our last award, Least Changed!”
John and I exchange a panicked look.
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Your Perfect Life includes discussion questions and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. How did you interpret the title of the novel? Did switching lives show Rachel and Casey that the other’s life wasn’t as perfect as it seemed, did it make them see that their own life was pretty perfect as it was—or is the answer somewhere in between?
2. What do you think the book is saying about “having it all”? Is such a thing attainable? What does “having it all” end up meaning for each of the protagonists?
3. Who are the people in Casey and Rachel’s lives who seem most attuned to the shift in their behavior and personality after they’ve switched bodies? Who seems to most recognize that something is not what it should be? Consider the significance of these particular individuals—what does it say about each woman’s relationship with them?
4. As Rachel and John enter the reunion holding hands and smiling, she thinks, “It’s funny how quickly we can transform into the people we ought to be” (page 12). In this moment, Rachel “pretending” to be a version of herself that she doesn’t feel seems to have negative connotations. But when she and Casey switch lives, “pretending” becomes a necessity, and even leads to positive things for each of them. How does “faking it” ultimately prove to be empowering for both women?
5. On the surface, Casey’s life might seem more glamorous than Rachel’s. What are the cons of being Casey that you wouldn’t have anticipated? And what are the pros of being Rachel that you might not have recognized?
6. What are some of the hard truths about themselves that Casey and Rachel are only able to see once they switch places?
7. As her relationship with Audrey blossoms, Casey remarks, “The one thing I’ve learned since being her mom is that having a teenager is a bit like dating a new guy; you can’t let them know how bad you want it” (page 143). In what other ways do Casey and Rachel use experiences from their “real” lives to help inform the decisions they make while they are switched? What unique skills are they able to bring to their best friend’s life?
8. When Casey and Rachel visit Jordan, the psychic, she says, “You already have the answer to switching back and it’s right in front of you. You need to think about why you switched in the first place and that will lead you to how you switch back” (page 110). Discuss what enables Casey and Rachel to finally switch back. What had to happen for this to become possible?
9. Consider how certain dynamics and fixed roles can develop in long-term friendships. How did this apply to Casey and Rachel at the beginning of the novel, and how has it changed by the end?
10. Which of your friends would you most trust to take over your life? What is it about this person—perhaps their personality traits, or your shared history—that makes them the best suited for the job? Which friend’s life would you most want to test out—and do you think your answer is different having now read Your Perfect Life? Are these two friends one and the same, or are they different?
11. There’s an old adage that you need to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before you can really understand them. In the case of Your Perfect Life, could it also be said that you need to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes to really understand yourself?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Bring your high school yearbook to your next book club meeting. Share how you feel you have changed since high school—and what you feel has stayed the same.
2. Rachel makes Casey a very detailed “How to Be Rachel” list to help her get through the days. Make your own “How to Be Me” list and consider sharing with the group. Try to think of everything that even your best friend might not know about your routine, your home, or your family.
3. Pretend that you are the casting director for the film version of Your Perfect Life. Who would you cast as Rachel and Casey? Who would play John and Charlie? What about Destiny and Audrey?
4. Speaking of films, consider watching one of the many movies that take the idea of “switching lives” as their central theme (Freaky Friday, Sliding Doors, Trading Places, The Change-Up, etc.). As a group, consider what it is about these kinds of stories that fascinate us so much. What desires do these narratives tap into? What do the common lessons of each seem to be?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I will be honest and say when I realized it was a 'Freaky Friday' set up I thought ok it will be cute. I mean we kinda all know how it will end (or so we think...). But I am going to give major kudo points to Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke for really raising the bar on the twist. You have the working woman who has it all living a Stay at home moms life (and of course vice versa). The story really allowed readers to see just how difficult both roles are. Both Casey and Rachel grew as woman because of the experience. I loved the authenticness of their friendship, the good and the bad really shined through the novel. I enjoyed EVERY SINGLE PAGE. If you are looking for something fun, lighthearted, yet touching and vulnerable with a dash of sass than YOUR PERFECT LIFE is the perfect read! I am highly recommending! On a personal note, I found the story uplifting--each woman's decision special and difficult neither more or less than the other. Each woman getting a glance into the life they didn't choose. (I would totally go see this movie, just sayin')
An engaging, witty, humorous, and insightful read about the meaning of best friends, and the “grass is not always greener” – If you enjoy the idea of switching lives, you will love this delicious read of two women-friends from early childhood, living two different lives, and yet sometimes envious of the other --until they find by walking in their shoes, may not be their cup of tea, after all. In particular is you like Freaky Friday, Sliding Doors, Trading Places, or others such as The Change-Up, you will be fascinated to explore and tap into lessons learned from this journey. In the case of Your Perfect Life, you may need to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes to really understand yourself. This enjoyable read dives into how certain dynamics and roles each woman plays, which changes from the beginning of the book to the end. The authors did an exceptional job of putting the day to day activities together of each woman into the body of their best friend, to compare family dynamics of single life versus married. The way the story was introduced was a brilliant set up—a class reunion always brings out the best and worst of anyone, so a perfect starting point. A lesson and inspiration to each of us, as sometimes the answer is right in front of us; however, we may have to learn from life’s lessons, to enable us to circle back and appreciate our own lives. In a way, each of us could learn from an experience such as this fictional one; the hard truths about ourselves such as Casey and Rachel, as they were not able to see clearly until they switched places. These two best friends forever have a real life changing experience, while in the switch mode—learning hard truths about themselves. Casey, the glamorous, single and successful one would seem on the surface very appealing more so than Rachel. Rachel, the woman who married her high school sweetheart with a family and sacrificed her career for her family’s needs – does she really have it all --what any woman would want? However, as the switch takes place you see the pros and cons which may not have been recognized initially. "Pretending” and faking it became a necessity for these two leading ladies--leading them to more positive things and becomes empowering for both women. A question to reflect and ponder--were they pretending to be someone else at times even before the switch? “Your Perfect Life” is an ideal book for book clubs and discussions, as there is so much to discuss about “having it all”. What does it mean, and did each woman have the Perfect Life already? The book includes a wonderful Readers Club Guide at the ending, which should jump start a lively discussion of what ifs, as you go deep into the relationships and meanings for each of the protagonists. I look forward to reading more from these two real life BFFs! A special thank you to Atria Books, Washington Square Press, and NetGalley for this ARC, in exchange for an unbiased and honest review.
This debut book hits the mark for an enjoyable read. Not only is it witty and will make you laugh and cry outloud, but it makes you look into your own "perfect life" to realize what you already have. Great read!
In life, it's easy to glimpse someone else's life and make immediate comparisons about how much easier or better it must be. Truth is, we all have an element in our life that someone else desperately wishes for, whether it's education, time, family, career, appearance, money, health, opportunity...the list goes on. Your Perfect Life shows a prime example of this. Two women who think one another has got it all until they wake up in each other's body and are forced to live each other's life. Slowly but surely, they begin to realize that the grass isn't always greener and appreciation eventually dawns. (view spoiler) Yes, it was predictable, but Your Perfect Life was a good read. It also was a good reminder to not take anything or anyone in your life for granted. Take stock in all that you have and appreciate it. There is always another who would give a million bucks for it. My favorite quote: "It’s funny how quickly we can transform into the people we ought to be." Note: Authors and best friends: Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke have colaberated on several standalone, women's fiction novels. Take a look at the synopses and consider checking them out! Your Perfect Life (2014) The Status of All Things (2015) The Year We Turned Forty (2016)