Jan 24, 2015

LILLIAN ON LIFE by Alison Jean Lester

I was sent a request to review this debut novel just days before it was published. What made me say yes was the unique concept and the approach the author took in telling Lillian's story. It didn't sound like any other novel I'd read and I was very curious about it. I was also impressed by the author's own experiences living in exciting places like Singapore and France and was curious to see how she would translate those experiences into her writing. Basically, this was a no-brainer for me.

The book begins with Lillian, a worldly, attractive, single woman of fifty-seven, waking and leaving her bed as her married lover, Michael, still lay sleeping.  As she quietly sips her morning coffee, she starts reflecting on how a girl from Missouri came to live a large part of her life in Europe, having many loves but never marrying, and ends up living alone in New York with yet another man who is committed to someone else sleeping in her bed.

My Thoughts

There are many words that come to mind when describing this debut novel:  Powerful; different;  insightful; blunt; sad. And I must include another word:  risky.  I have to admire Alison Jean Lester for presenting a character and a story that is so exposed and personal yet so deliberate.   This is not your average novel with sweeping details of the protagonist's life from day to day in storybook fashion. This is a straight-forward, no holds barred account of Lillian's life as seen through her own older and wiser eyes and mind. It reads more like a personal journal with deep secrets, regrets and confessions.  At times it made me feel as if I were spying on her most private thoughts.

Each short chapter focuses on a variety of topics, such as fate, first-time sex, doing the right thing, among many others, which gradually take the reader through her life's experiences.  Some are heartbreaking, some very poignant and even funny. Since Lester doesn't dwell on descriptive details, the chapters are short and gets her message across directly.

I immediately liked Lillian and I think most people will. Her honesty and vulnerability is what made her endearing to me. She especially tugged at my heart strings when she spoke about her strained relationship with her mother and her totally opposite, loving relationship with her Poppa.

The bottom line is that I really liked this book. It was exactly what I needed to get me out of the slump I'd found myself in for the last several weeks. If you're looking for something different and refreshing, this is your book! Special thanks to Stephanie Hargadon at Putnam for providing me with my review copy via NetGalley.

Author: Alison Jean Lester
Publisher: Putnam Adult
Published January 13, 2015
Length: 241 pp


  1. I have the feeling I'd like this book and am putting it on my list right now. Terrific review, Lisa!

    1. Thanks Beth! Its such a quick and intriguing book that I'm so glad I took the time with. If you do decide to read it, I'd love to knwo what you think of it. :)


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