My Ex-Life: When the Only True Direction is Forward

Originally published May 2018

Life’s all about choices.

What to eat for breakfast. Which color underwear to wear. Whether or not to finish your homework. The TV show you want to start binging. The college you go to. The person you marry, or don’t. Where to work. If you should ignore a friend or answer a text. Every day, ever hour. Choices.

The one thing you can’t choose? Your moment in time.

Stephen McCauley’s latest, “My Ex-Life,” is a engaging, funny, and sometimes painful, reminder that even if we are afforded the opportunity to look back, and maybe even revisit the past, there’s no escaping the present or avoiding the future. You can prop your feet on the lap of an old flame and read from old novels until dawn. Dawn’s still coming. And the rent is still due.

David Hedges finds himself at a crossroads when, reeling from chaotic, if not comedic, changes in his personal life, he receives a call from his ex-wife Julie. She’s looking for some help with her daughter, Mandy, and by extension, herself, and his college admissions coaching business serves as an opportune jumping off point.

David leaves one coast for another, and finds himself back in familiar-but-not quite-so surroundings with Julie and Mandy, hoping to straighten out his life by straightening out theirs. Easier said than done when all things real estate, on both sides of the country, are trying to force your hand before you are ready to play your cards. What can you do when you realize there is no taking bad a bad choice? Trusting the wrong person? That, despite Mitch’s soliloquy in “City Slickers,” there are no “do-overs?”

Then there are the sublayers — Mandy and Julie’s mother-daughter relationship. Julie and David and what once was. Mandy looking for acceptance in all the wrong places. The bad exes. The one-night stands. Unscrupulous friends. Readers are easily drawn into McCauley’s fictional seaside world, so much so it’s likely you won’t come up for air until you finish the last page.

“My Ex-Life” reads at a nice, smooth pace making it a great choice for a weekend or a road-trip read. This’ll be popping up in beach bags everywhere this summer and has the family drama dynamic that is the stuff book clubs are made for. A lot to unpack, but not so much you can’t debate it over a single dinner. Don’t miss it!

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