Friday, June 21, 2024

Book Review: Rules for Second Chances

By Becky Gulc

Brimming with heart and heat, Rules for Second Chances explores the hardest relationship question of all: can true love happen twice...with the same person?

Liz Lewis has tried everything to be what people want. But she’s always been labeled different from everyone else in the boisterous world of wilderness expeditions—that is, if anyone notices her at all. Her marriage to popular adventure guide Tobin Renner-Lewis is a sinkhole of toxic positivity where she’s the only one saying no. In a mountain resort town built around excitement, introverted Liz gets…spreadsheets.

When she gets mistaken for a server at her own thirtieth birthday party and her last line of communication with Tobin finally snaps, Liz vows to stop playing a minor character in her own life. The (incredibly well-researched and scientific) plan? A crash course in confidence…via improv comedy class.

The catch? She’s terrible at it, and the only person willing to practice with her is a certain extroverted wilderness guide who seems dead set on saving their marriage one bonkers improv scenario at a time. But as Liz and Tobin get closer (...again), she’s forced to confront all the reasons they didn’t work the first time, along with her growing suspicion that there might be more to her social awkwardness than anyone realized. Liz has just eight weeks to learn improv’s most important lesson—"yes, and"—or she’ll have to choose between the love she always wanted and the dreams that got away. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

Rules for Second Chances centres on Liz, a 30 year-old married woman who is a self-confessed introvert; she’s socially awkward and is tired of hiding behind her husband both at work and outside of work. Tobin is the opposite of Liz in her eyes; engaging, confident, successful. Liz has had enough: of being overlooked, of being awkward, and she’s no longer going to accept the lack of real communication between her and her husband and pretty much living as ships that pass in the night. Cue an early decision in the novel to separate from her husband; sign up for an improv class and enter into a work pitch competition with the aim of becoming the kind of person that will be noticed at work, finally. Liz is here to change her life. What could possibly go wrong with one introvert and one improv class?

Hands up here…I was reading this as someone called ‘painfully shy’ at school, nothing much has changed. I am an introvert and am socially awkward. This book/Liz immediately resonated with me as it did throughout and I thank Maggie for presenting a character so real to me that was also so unique. I can’t remember the last time a character drew me in so quickly. The prose is beautiful and poignant. I folded down so many pages where I was just like wow...that is fantastic writing just there, the inner dialogue, the battles. 

I did feel somewhat frustrated that I couldn’t always see what Liz saw/felt in terms of her marriage. Tobin seems like a good guy from the very beginning, his heart is certainly in the right place and the pair have oodles of chemistry that it was great to see unpicked as the pair inadvertently become improv partners and work through a marriage counselling book essentially.  The improv element was occasionally a bit clunky but it brought out so much in terms of the struggle being real, comical moments (karaoke as an animal anyone?!) and allowed for some great characters to be introduced to the story. 

I would wholeheartedly recommend this novel. It’s original, heartfelt, and eye-opening as to what it’s like to live as a (potentially) autistic person. The premise of how to rebuild a marriage was an interesting one in terms of the unique ways Liz and Tobin explore this. They certainly have a journey together, as does Liz in her own self-discovery. There’s so much more that I haven’t even covered too; difficult wider family relationships and scars. Everything was put together so well and I just adored this book. 

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for the book in exchange for an honest review. (And for sending it to the UK!)

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