The Life List by Lori Nelson Spielman is a novel with a plot that has been done before: Someone stands to inherit something but must complete a certain task first. In the case of Brett Bohlinger, the only daughter of Elizabeth Bohlinger of Bohlinger Cosmetics, a successful cosmetics company that’s worth millions, she must complete 10 things she left uncrossed on a life list she created at the age of 14. That’s 20 years ago! Now think about this: What exactly would a 14-year-old want to do with her life, and how would that compare to what a 34-year-old woman would want in her life? Make amends with a friend, okay. Fall in love, sure. But buy a horse? Have a baby, even in the span of one year? And “perform live, on a super big stage”? Seriously? It’s crazy that her mother would think that, instead of a nice inheritance just like her two brothers got, she instead must tackle a “to do” list of 10 things she wanted to do with her life 20 years ago. Brett is just as aghast and confused as I was over this whole thing.
Yes, this kind of story has been done, but Spielman has created her own take on this story. She also brings to the table characters we love (like Sanquita), characters we hate (like Andrew) and characters that make us rethink just who we are and how we treat family (like Joad). There’s also the scary kid Peter that Brett must tutor, and I’m surprised this menacing young man does not scare Brett so badly that she swears off ever having kids of her own.
Now aside from those characters, there is the main character Brett. I had some trouble figuring this one out. How could a strong, educated woman possibly overlook Andrew’s true motives? She knows what kind of man Andrew is, yet she lets it slide when he keeps asking her about her inheritance, even demanding she quote a figure for God’s sake, and trying to weasel his way into her mother’s company. If I had been in the same room, I would have whispered this little tip to Brett: “He’s only interested in your money.” I don’t know why she keeps ignoring all of her red flags or his actions, even when he acts like such a creep around her. Perhaps she’s scared of being homeless because she lives with HIM and has no job or money for a new place (hello? Your mom’s house?), or maybe she thinks she must settle for Andrew because how else will she find a guy to marry and have a baby with in one year’s time? (And did she really want that creep to be the father of her children?) Also, I had to wonder over certain other mistakes in good judgment Brett makes, such as relying on how a baby reacts to a guy she’s dating to see if he’d make a good father (seriously?), and making it her mission to try to help Evil Peter when it’s obvious the kid’s LSS (love that, by the way!) has escalated to a dangerous level. Also, since her attorney allows Brett a loophole in how long she can stay in her mother's house, she decides that's the new rule, regardless of what it said in her mother's will. And why did she even think it was a good idea to get intimate with her lawyer? I guess she was too vulnerable or fragile to be on top of things or even realize this quest to check off all 10 items on her list before the deadline was making her a little desperate. I had to give her props, though, for standing up to her brother when he questioned her about living at their mother's house. He just didn’t see that his sister was WITHOUT the comfort of an inheritance to find a new place to live. That guy was a piece of work, especially with that little comment he made to Brett after she discovered a secret in her mother’s diary.
There are some parts of this story that I just fell in love with, though. Some parts of it that made me laugh or cry. It is a good story, despite having been done, and even though Brett was a character that was hard for me to understand, I still enjoyed reading this story. I could never try to complete a life list created 20 years ago and it was interesting to see Brett just try to do that very thing.
After Brett Bohlinger’s mother passes away, she is convinced she stands to inherit not only her mother’s multimillion-dollar cosmetics company but also a hefty paycheck to boot. But life never works out the way we want it to. Instead of a nice check, Brett is handed a different piece of paper instead: A life list she created 20 years ago. She must complete 10 items on that list in a year’s time, or else Brett stands to lose her inheritance. And after being left with nothing, Brett’s only chance of regaining her footing is to move forward with her mother’s wishes. It’s the start of a journey that will turn her life around.
In this utterly charming debut—perfect for fans of Cecelia Ahern’s P.S., I Love You and Allison Winn Scotch’s Time of My Life—one woman sets out to complete her old list of childhood goals, and finds that her lifelong dreams lead her down a path she never expects.
1. Go to Paris
2. Have a baby, maybe two
3. Fall in love
Brett Bohlinger seems to have it all: a plum job, a spacious loft, an irresistibly handsome boyfriend. All in all, a charmed life. That is, until her beloved mother passes away, leaving behind a will with one big stipulation: In order to receive her inheritance, Brett must first complete the life list of goals she’d written when she was a naïve girl of fourteen. Grief-stricken, Brett can barely make sense of her mother’s decision—her childhood dreams don’t resemble her ambitions at age thirty-four in the slightest. Some seem impossible. How can she possibly have a relationship with a father who died seven years ago? Other goals (Be an awesome teacher!) would require her to reinvent her entire future. As Brett reluctantly embarks on a perplexing journey in search of her adolescent dreams, one thing becomes clear. Sometimes life’s sweetest gifts can be found in the most unexpected places.