All Together Now, by Matthew Norman
Publication: Ballentine Books; June 15, 2021
About: At just thirty-five, reclusive billionaire Robbie Malcolm is a renowned financial prognosticator, a celebrated philanthropist, and a mathematical genius. Also, he’s dying, which is a fact he’s carefully concealing from the world.
As he takes stock, Robbie realizes that his wealth means nothing if he can’t help the people who matter most. So he invites his oldest friends—Blair, Cat, and Wade—to their beloved Fenwick Island on the coast of Delaware to share his secret and to reveal plans for each of them that he believes will change their lives forever.
However, Robbie isn’t the only one with secrets. The bonds the friends formed as teenagers still exist, but adulthood has brought a whole new set of complications, like unrequited loves, marriages on the brink, and so much unfulfilled potential. Robbie’s plans may look good on paper, but are they any match for the utter disaster that is real life?
As everything comes to light over a wild weekend full of surprises, Robbie learns there are still some things money can’t buy, and a group of friends who thought their best years were behind them realize just how much they have to look forward to.
Matthew Norman’s latest novel, All Together Now, is about a billionaire named Robbie who is dying and wants to spend one last weekend with his lifelong best friends Wade, Blair, and Cat. Robbie studies up on each of his friends who don’t keep in touch with one another as much as they should, with hopes for presenting them with plans to improve their lives. Blair is married with two children and has long since given up her dream of being an artist and instead is flirting with the art teacher at her childrens’ school while her marriage is falling apart. Wade published a book six years ago that flopped, can’t get anyone to publish his second novel, and has just been evicted. Free-spirted Cat is a successful producer in L.A., has just broken up with her girlfriend, and wants to have a baby. Everyone but Robbie thinks they are just taking a weekend to reconnect until he tells them about his health and what he hopes for each of them.
I have to say, for those of you that remember 80’s movies, the plot of All Together Now is very reminiscent of the movie The Big Chill. Themes of death, the desire to have a child, marital woes, and a struggling career all align with the movie from many years ago. However, it’s still a fantastic read.
Despite this being a story about four best friends and one last weekend together, the author beautifully developed each character and their internal and external struggles. No one’s life was even close to perfect. however, as the weekend passed and more truths were shared, it was evident that their friendship was steadfast regardless of misconceptions, wants, needs, and failures. There was a moment that was especially well-developed when the friends learn about and confront Robbie about his own misgivings that came to light. Norman perfectly captures the vulnerability within this group, their love for one another, and their complete willingness to forgive, even if they didn’t understand.
I was worried about this becoming sad considering a main character was dying, but this novel was mostly filled with witty dialogue and several humorous moments, especially from Cat and Wade. I laughed out loud several times, but mostly it made me want to reach out to those that I consider my dear, lifelong friends and hug them tight. This is a must-read that I should have picked up long before today!
*Thanks to NetGalley for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion!