image001Alison Jean Lester’s debut novel, Lillian on Life, shares Lillian’s reflections on her remarkable journey from the 1960’s through the 1990’s.

Lillian reflects on all parts of life, the nuances that make it exciting and tragic; thrilling and soul-searing, usually against the backdrop of Lillian’s relationship with her family and her lovers.

There were times when I was unsure what to make of Lillian.  There were parts of her I admired, moving from the midwest to numerous European cities, certainly seeming more glamorous and exciting than most of her peers.

She longs for a marriage and family, but will any of the men in her life be that right person?

I asked myself throughout the book, would I be able to be friends with Lillian?  In some ways, she seems too cosmopolitan. In others, I believe we have a lot in common. And while whether I could hypothetically be friends with a fictional character certainly doesn’t determine the merit of a book, it does help me determine how much I relate to the characters.  In a character driven novel, that relatability is important to me.

I had my answer with the end of the novel.  I felt- what’s the best word?-unsettled.  I believe I felt Lillian’s emotions. I’m not certain how happy she is, and that uncertainty feels very human to me.

A few phrases struck me as I was reading the book. I shared a few as a teaser on the BookfetishBlog Facebook page, and I want to share this one here: “…But if I’ve learned anything, it’s this: The world has never loved a spinster, and never will. The more people she tells, the merrier.”

Phrases like that, unique and simultaneously humorous and gut-punching, are throughout the book, and one of the things that made me really enjoy Lester’s writing.