Laurel Osterkamp’s new novel, Starring in the Movie of My Life, is one of those rare reads I come across where I’m so enthralled from the first page that I can’t stop reading and nothing else gets done until the book is finished.

The novel centers around three people, eighteen year old Melody, cold, calculating, and driven to better her circumstances; Samantha, thirty-five, flighty, generous, but lost and confused about her own life; and twenty-five year old Nate, Melody’s English teacher and Samantha’s husband.

Nate saves Melody from being raped, and she turns her affections to him, creating her own real-life drama in which she stars in order to find the attention and affection she’s never felt from anyone else.  Meanwhile, though Samantha loves her new husband, she still hung up on her ex, and confused  about potentially becoming a mother. She relates to life through movies she’s seen, and after making an impetuous decision to support a friend, Samantha begins work on a documentary in which she truly is one of the stars.   As Melody and Samantha both battle for Nate, he finds himself torn between the two of them.

The story narration alternates between Melody and Samantha. This works very well. It allows the reader to understand the motivations and emotions of both characters.  I found myself really not liking Melody. After all, she’s self-centered, manipulative, and doesn’t care that she’s trying to destroy a marriage. I also found myself feeling a bit sorry for Melody.  She learned manipulation from her mother, who only relates to Melody in terms of what Melody can do for her. And towards the end of the story, we see Melody evolving, growing. I don’t want to give away anything, but Melody does learn to see things from points of view other than her own, realizing that while she may be the star in the movie of her life, sometimes the rest of the cast is valuable.

Samantha, too, is flawed, although in different ways than Melody. She’s sort of fallen into her life, never taking big chances and going after what might be the best thing for her. Part of this is the pull of her ex, for whom she still has lingering, albeit conflicting feelings.  Things start happening, though, when Samantha impulsively volunteers an enormous favor to her best friend and is forced to confront her past, her commitment to her marriage, and what is best for her in the long run.

Throughout the book, I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next.  I couldn’t wait to turn the page, yet at the same time, I sort of dreaded it.  I cared enough about all the characters that I didn’t want to see anything irreparable happen to them.  I didn’t want Melody to “win” because I didn’t like the way  she was manipulating so many people. But at the same time, I didn’t want her to become so damaged there was no hope for her redemption.  Similarly, at times I wanted to shake Samantha so she’d have to face her past.  We all have to do that at some point. We’re just running aimlessly until we do it. And we won’t be happy, be able to forge our true path until we do it.

Without giving away anything, I think Osterkamp wraps up the story nicely. It’s a satisfying ending, although not what I expected at the beginning of the book.  I’ll definitely be reading more of Laurel Osterkamp.  You can find links to her books in ebook formats here and you can read more about Laurel Osterkamp here