A Way Back to Happy, by Olivia Spooner
Publication: Aria; September 16, 2021
About: Sometimes you have to fall apart so that you can start again…
After five years stuck in the wrong marriage, 33-year-old Emma is finally free. Her husband has moved out, her son Freddie is making friends, and her parents are finally trying to stop micro-managing her life.
On a celebratory night out with her three best friends, Emma meets Finn. Young, dimpled and irresistibly Scottish Finn. Between landing her dream job, stolen moments with Finn, and precious time with Freddie, Emma is happier than she has ever been.
Then one accident changes everything and Emma’s life is thrown into chaos. With the help of all who love her, can Emma find a way back to happy?
A Way Back to Happy is the debut novel by Olivia Spooner about a woman named Emma and her life right after her husband left her. Emma had planned to tell her husband Paul that she and their young son Freddie were moving out, but Paul beat Emma to the punch by telling her he was leaving, and she was thrilled. She soon gets a part-time job at a local, organic grocery store she loves and finds herself finally happy. Emma meets Finn when out with the girls one night leading to a steamy weekend and then a casual relationship with the fun-loving Finn. However, after a terrible accident one evening, everything changes.
Considering the substance and themes of this novel, the blurb above is honestly a bit cheesy in my opinion. This is a very thoughtful novel that makes you not only analyze your own behaviors but really makes you think about the people in your life that you depend on (or think that you can). Emma’s network of friends and family was absolutely amazing and honestly made me wonder the last time I read something where a character had that many people in their corner. The relationship she has with Finn starts out reckless and wild, like a woman clearly re-sowing some wild oats after a divorce, but I enjoyed how it shifted to a more controlled and responsible friendship towards the end. I can’t say I was really crazy about Finn, but I didn’t dislike him either. Perhaps his character could have been developed a little more? Emma’s friends were great, especially the hilarious and usually inappropriate Lily who added many laughs to the book from beginning to end.
This is one of those reviews where I feel as if I’m not really saying much, but it’s hard to review and go into the plot without spoiling the entire novel. I will say that despite the blurb, I was very surprised about what happened with Finn and Emma. Even more surprising, however, was the ending. Again, without giving spoilers, the ending truly came out of nowhere. The last page or so is my only criticism of the novel at all. I felt that it was rushed and abrupt and really didn’t make a lot of sense considering the behavior of her family and friends throughout the entire book. I was lying in bed and when it came to the end I shot up in bed and literally yelled, “what the hell” to my iPad. Nevertheless, this was an excellent debut as far as writing style, development, and dialogue. Emma’s story is uncomfortable at times while she deals with the aftermath of a completely avoidable accident, but it is certainly worth reading. I am excited to see what this author does in the future. I would rate this 4.5 stars but am rounding up to 5.
*Thanks to Aria and NetGalley for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest review!