In my more fantastical moments, I dream of letting my carefully ordered and over-scheduled life go a bit. Maybe my kids don’t have to go to bed at seven-thirty every night. Maybe I could try to eat that German chocolate cake I bake that everyone tells me is the best they’ve ever tasted with abandon instead of counting the calories going into my body. Maybe I should take a walk in the summer breeze rather than cleaning out the pile of bills on the kitchen counter. But taking risks or just plain chilling out can be scary. That’s why Kathleen Long’s Changing Lanes is such an appealing book. It speaks to any control freak (ahem, often female, sorry for gender stereotyping) who longs to slacken the reins of her life a bit.
Advice columnist Abby Halladay literally loses everything that makes her life familiar in one day. First, her boss fires her because her column lacks edge. Then, her new house in Paris, New Jersey is found to be unlivable when an inspection reveals extensive termite damage. Finally, Abby’s fiancé, Fred, calls to reveal that he has run away to Paris (France, not New Jersey) to think about things, and he’ll be incommunicado for a month. Rather than wallow in despair, Abby proves to be fairly resilient as she begins driving a family cab to pick up fares, finds a way to get the house fixed, and more importantly, begins seriously reevaluating her life and goals with the help of her childhood friends and her parents.
Changing Lanes moves quickly, and the characters make the book. In particular, Abby’s parents are hilarious, an eccentric pair with a collection of white lies that keep their marriage both realistic and functional. Abby herself is completely believable as she questions her life and her place in the world, and Abby’s childhood buddy Mick is man enough for anyone, the perfect mix of hunky, mysterious and kind. The strength of the characters combined with the smooth flow of the plot and the small-town antics that pass for normalcy in Paris all result in a joyful read.
Too many people are geared to aim for perfection, constantly spinning their wheels and getting nowhere that really matters. Through Abby’s courageous journey, Changing Lanes teaches us to reexamine the lives that we have so purposefully orchestrated and question whether we are truly enjoying the things that matter the most, like family and friends, rather than pouring too much effort into work and whatever image of our lives we have decided is appropriate. After reading about such an inspiring journey, I’m going to go sign up for those guitar lessons I’ve been meaning to take for years. Maybe I can live a little dangerously after all.
Thanks to Media Connect for the book in exchange for an honest review.
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