For the last fifteen years, Rose “Manny” Mankowski has been a very good girl. Now, at the age of 45, she’s questioning her choices and feeling more and more disconnected from her own life. When she’s passed over for promotion and her much younger new boss implies Manny’s life will never change, something snaps. In the blink of an eye, she’s quit her job, sold her house, cashed in her pension, and she’s leaving town on a six month road trip.
After placing an ad for a travelling companion, she’s joined in her mid-life crisis by Zeke Powell, the cynical, satirical, most read – and most controversial – blogger for the e-zine, What Women Want. Zeke’s true goal is to expose Manny’s journey as a pitiful and desperate attempt to reclaim her lost youth – and increase his readership at the same time.
Now, armed with a bagful of destinations, a fistful of maps, and an out-spoken imaginary friend named Harvey, Manny’s on a quest to rediscover herself – and taking Zeke along for the ride.
A Life Less Ordinary is Victoria Bernadine’s debut novel about a desk-bound employee who longs for adventure after not receiving a well-deserved promotion. Manny, the heroine, could be any woman of a certain age who suddenly discovers life has reach its summit and is barreling down the other side full speed. The controlled Manny has her life timed right down to minute for all the good it does her.
After eschewing a husband and family, and devoting herself to her career, her boss promotes a young woman big on cleavage and short on experience. He excuses his behavior by saying his new hire will help the department achieve more ignoring the fact that Manny’s department is the highest achieving unit in the firm. The straw that breaks Manny’s will to serve is when the new hire refers to her as being ancient. The words, “I quit,” pop out before she even considered them.
Manny cashes in her savings, advertised for a male traveling companion and plans to discover herself by traveling. Her friend and sister battle between wanting to discourage her or applaud her.
Her companion is a closed mouthed New Zealand bloke named Zeke. One of the reasons he is so reticent to say much about himself that he is using the trip as fodder for his online blog where he ridicules the foolishness of middle age women trying to find themselves. It is obvious from the get go that despite movie star good looks, Zeke is horrible at relationships.
The third member of this troupe is an imaginary man named Harvey. He’s Manny’s constant companion who often offers witty comments and insights. He changes outfits and attitudes with Manny’s mood. The three of them head out across the United States in a camper on cross-purposes.
A Life Less Ordinary often touches on the lives of Manny’s sister, Daisy, and friend, Rebecca, who at the beginning seem to have more excitement in their lives than she does. It also delves into the infertility issues of his Zeke’s producer, Leah, and her spouse. I was okay with the sister and friend side stories, but the infertility story was too much. It felt like filler too me, which was unneeded. The story would be great with just Manny, Zeke and Harvey.
A Life Less Ordinary is a fun tale that is easy to read. It gives you a different view on what it means to be a middle-aged woman. I was little confused on what genre it was so I am calling it women’s fiction because Amazon did. I think women of a certain age will gobble this book up in one setting. I would not expect anyone under thirty to get it. I’d also keep my eye on Ms. Bernadine because this is only her first book, I can hardly wait to see what she has in store for us.
“All I ever wanted was a life less ordinary.”
Manny lay flat on her back, eyes wide, staring at the ceiling while she waited for her clock to hit 6:00. Another day of work, she thought. Another day older and deeper in debt.
She had the alarm timed to the millisecond. The jarring noise had barely begun when she clicked it off. She sighed then threw back the covers and got out of bed.
She padded into the bathroom, glanced without interest in the full-length mirror that doubled as her shower doors and took her morning inventory.
Plain face? Check.
Looking tired? Check.
Thirty pounds overweight? Check.
Dark circles under deer-caught-in-headlights eyes? Check and check.
She shook her head at her limp, mousy hair and wondered when she’d gotten so old.
She sighed in resignation then conjured up her Perfect Fantasy Man–or Harvey, as she liked to call him–to give her a morning lift. She cocked her head to one side as she stared into the mirror and imagined him standing behind her. She smiled at the handsome man, and he smiled back, putting his hands on her shoulders. Everything about him was warm, in stark contrast to the cold shades of grey in which she lived her life. He had warm brown eyes, warm brown skin, and a warm smooth voice that always reminded her of golden honey. Today his hair was black with greying temples, and yes, even that seemed warm to her.
He was perfect, everything she considered ideal in a man–and extra-perfect, of course, because he was a fantasy. Just the thought of trying to establish a relationship with an actual man felt too much like work.
She sighed and Harvey disappeared.
“Instead I ended up in a rut–everything planned and executed to the minute.”
Victoria Bernadine (a pseudonym) is, as the saying goes, a “woman of a certain age”. After twenty-something years of writer’s block, she began writing again in 2008. She began with fanfiction about a (now-cancelled) TV show called Jericho and particularly about the characters of Heather Lisinski and Edward Beck. From there, she expanded into writing original fic and she hasn’t stopped since.
Victoria enjoys reading all genres and particularly loves writing romantic comedy and post-apocalyptic science fiction. What those two have in common is anybody’s guess.
She lives in Edmonton with her two cats (The Grunt and The Runt). A Life Less Ordinary is the first novel she felt was good enough to be released into the wild.
Victoria can be contacted through Love of Words Publishing Inc. (firstname.lastname@example.org) or through her brand new blog at http://victoriabernadine.wordpress.com/.
A Life Less Ordinary is available for sale on Amazon in both Kindle and hard copy formats at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AMJBOSQ.