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My Year of Casual Acquaintances
Ruth F. Stevens
Despite his long history of infidelity, Margaret Meyer is blindsided when her husband leaves her for another woman. Determined to reinvent herself, she moves to a cozy apartment and enrolls with a fancy health club to build a new social life from scratch in this funny, touching novel from Stevens (author of Stage Seven). Over the course of a year, Margaret begins going by the nickname Mar, makes friends in fitness classes, and even forges a surprise connection with Charlie, the hottie novelist from her yoga class, but it’s not until after things go south with him that she begins to truly change. Mar slowly stops seeing those around her purely for what they can do for her and begins to behave with generosity of spirit and respect for others.

Stevens makes this trajectory resonant and engaging, capturing the challenges and rewards of transformative growth as well as the pleasures of good health,”eminently drinkable” Trader Joes wine, and “having so much to say” with someone new that both people “keep talking over each other.” From her lonely, alcoholic existence, all but estranged from her adult son and with no friends to speak of, Mar finally finds peace and comfort in helping and supporting others, and just when she stops seeing relationships as transactional, natural reciprocity begins to enhance her life.

In Stevens’s brisk storytelling, this leads to heartening outcomes, as when a combination of generosity toward a former neighbor in need and loving pressure from one of those new friends puts Mar in a position to uncover the lie that has poisoned her relationship with her son and kept her from her grandson. While Mar starts out unlikeable and frustrating in her attempts at “connection”, she grows admirably, makes understandable and fully human mistakes, owns up to her failures, and even behaves in ways that are truly admirable, all while remaining true to her quirks and opinions. This is a lovely story of finding yourself later in life.

Takeaway: Touching, polished story of a woman embracing growth, post-divorce.

Comparable Titles: Roxana Robinson’s Leaving, Barbara O'Neal’s The Scent of Hours.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A