My Ex-Life — Stephen McCauley

Date Read: September 2, 2018
Rating: 3.5/5
Format: E-book

When college-prep counselor David Hedges is contacted by his ex-wife Julie’s daughter for school help, he leaves his addled San Francisco life for Julie’s oceanside Boston suburb. Fleeing awful friends, an impending eviction by his landlady’s lawyer (who, awkwardly, is one of David’s best friends), and a difficult breakup (who, awkwardly, is one half of the couple trying to purchase David’s landlady’s home), he arrives in Beauport, MA to find Julie equally verklempt.

Julie is facing yet another divorce and the prospect of losing her daughter to her soon-to-be ex and his hot, young, new girlfriend. Trying to scrounge up the money to buy back the house, she gets involved in short-term rentals, with a variety of guests cycling in and out of the house on a regular basis. She’s short on money, she’s hooked on weed, and she doesn’t know how to help her daughter, Mandy, prepare for college applications, so this ghost of her ‘ex-life’ holds promise of truly saving the day.

Mandy, meanwhile, has lost the kitchiest retail job on the boardwalk, lowering her already not-stellar motivation and confidence in her abilities. An unpopular girl at school, she tries to stay under the radar with her peers, but later gets caught in some risky business with the mysteriously attractive 28-year-old Craig Crespo, who all the girls at school have an eye on. Perhaps David might be saving more than one person here…

My Ex-Life contains an interesting story and a range of credible conflict, but the strength of the description of characters is the real high point in this novel. Even the smallest characters play their roles perfectly from the beginning to the end of their trajectories, and each decision they make is very appropriately reflective of their, well…. character!

While those aspects are crucial to a good novel, that is really all that stands out. Though the book is short, it was a long read for me. I didn’t find it terribly captivating; this was more in the vein of, “Ah, I’d better check in and see what’s happening in Beauport…” every now and then. And, to be very picky and mildly personal, McCauley throws a descriptor in here at some point: “like the decaying beauty of Detroit”, which sounds a lot like it was written by someone who hasn’t been to Detroit in quite some time! Mr. McCauley, if you’re reading, I urge you to come back and realize the error of that epitaph 🙂

Anyway,  My Ex-Life has some real strengths. If you don’t mind a book that’ll take a little bit of time, then by all means, jump right in! This novel can be found here and, as always, at your local library.

Happy reading!

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