Title: This Was Not the Plan
Author: Cristina Alger
Synopsis: Charlie Goldwyn’s life hasn’t exactly gone according to plan. Widowerhood at thirty-three and twelve-hour workdays have left a gap in his relationship with his quirky five-year-old son, Caleb, whose obsession with natural disasters and penchant for girls’ clothing have made him something of a loner at his preschool. The only thing Charlie has going for him is his job at a prestigious law firm, where he is finally close to becoming a partner.
But when a slight lapse in judgment at an office party leaves him humiliatingly unemployed, stuck at home with Caleb for the summer, and forced to face his own estranged father, Charlie starts to realize that there’s more to fatherhood than financially providing for his son, and more to being a son than overtaking his father’s successes.
Huge thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for this ARC!
If I’m being honest, I don’t review a lot of a adult novels. It’s not because I don’t enjoy them, it’s usually because our blog has such a higher focus on young adult and middle grade. That being said, when I received This Was Not The Plan in the mail, part of me was a tad confused why I was getting it. Then I read the note inside from who sent it to me and decided I needed to give it a shot.
There’s not a lot of books out there that focus on male widows, let alone ones who are single parents. Charlie is a lawyer who works insane hours while his sister, Zadie, takes care of this son. When Charlie has a drunkin’ meltdown at a cocktail meeting, his feelings of what it means to be a corporate lawyer “protecting the bad guys” goes viral on YouTube, costing him his job. Forced to leave his position, it gives Charlie a chance to reconnect with his family, more particularly his son, in what turns out to be one of the crazy family reunions I’ve ever read about.
I loved Charlie as a character. Despite being uptight and very corporate, you get a sense that when he loses his job that “it wasn’t the plan.” Furthermore, this lack of planning continues to spiral in the novel, as so much more of his life goes from being planned to unplanned in the blink of an eye. He was married to a woman who didn’t believe in planning. Everything we learn about Charlie’s wife Mira is just interesting, and you get a sense that both characters couldn’t be more opposite to each other and yet they worked so well. The overarching theme of what it means to plan versus life just happening was quite inspiring at times, and it made for an engaging reading experience.
My favourite character by far was Zadie, though. She’s much more free-spirited and has a strong desire to teach her older brother how to live a little. The fact that he behaves like he is afraid to is part of the issue, but Zadie gives so much insight in terms of how living your life versus life living you can ultimately destroy a person’s well being. I also loved her relationship with Caleb, and I loved that she allowed him to express himself in any way he desired. I thought it was great how she also taught Charlie about how to accept Caleb’s openness for pink tutus and Dora the Explorer. I enjoyed that there wasn’t a romance really in this novel. Not that it would have been bad, but the author does this fantastic job of showing how Charlie just isn’t ready yet. Even if he thinks he’s ready, there’s that part of his that still hasn’t grieved his wife, that hasn’t had time to be the kind of dad he wants to be.
This novel is a fantastic read, and one that grabbed me right from the get-go. The characters in this novel are imperfect, but loveable. This is for lovers of contemporary fiction, and those who love stories about family. This Was Not The Plan ended up being a surprise favourite for me, and I hope others check it out and enjoy the overall message it illustrates.