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How to Save a Life


How to Save a Life

How far would you go to save the life of your true love? In HOW TO SAVE A LIFE, Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke explore this concept in a touching novel that contains more than a few Groundhog Day references. It also has a wonderfully imperfect first-person narrator who either lunches with or talks to his mother daily, buttons up his shirts one button too many, and looks both ways before crossing the street --- always. Dom is just not the adventurous type, and he wonders if that is what made him fall in love with Mia a decade ago.

At the start of the novel, we get a glimpse into the past, and we are there when Dom proposes to Mia in a perfect beach setting. Their love seems to know no bounds, and they appear destined to have a wonderful life together. But then we move to the present, June 2020, and realize that Dom and Mia are not together. In fact, they meet by accident in a coffee shop, where he learns that she just moved back to the San Diego area from the Chicago suburbs.

"...a touching novel that contains more than a few Groundhog Day references.... [HOW TO SAVE A LIFE] is an engrossing story of love, acceptance and change."

Dom is thrilled. Mia is the one who got away --- the girlfriend he has never been able to get over. He has not had a serious relationship since theirs, and every single day he regrets ending their engagement. Could this be the chance to make up for the past 10 years? Could she ever forgive him for his rejection of her?

They plan to go out on Thursday evening, and in an effort to impress Mia, Dom agrees to go to the county fair, which is not his favorite place in the world. He even goes on one of the scariest rides, but then something terrible happens and Mia ends up dead. Dom can’t believe that after 10 years without her, she is killed on their first night out. He makes a wish at the hospital --- that he be given a chance to save Mia’s life.

It’s not a surprise when we realize that Dom wakes up on the same Thursday he had experienced already. The same music is playing on the alarm, and his roommate and best friend is making the same breakfast. Everything is exactly the same. That is, until Dom decides to change things. He’s not sure what’s going on and thinks it was a dream until the day plays out just like the previous one --- he knows what will happen, what people will say to him, and, at the news station where he works, what events will be newsworthy.

Because of his “dream” about the fair, Dom invites Mia to dinner at his apartment. She dies. As each Thursday rolls by in succession, we get more involved, learn more about them, and see his frantic attempts to stop her from dying each night. As in Groundhog Day, each day gives Dom new insight into his life, his mistakes and even Mia’s imperfections. But it also gives him another chance to save the woman he loves, the only woman who has mattered to him. The one he let get away --- the one he unforgivably drove away.

We get increasingly invested in Dom and his roommate, Lance. We see Dom change. He becomes kinder, and because each day repeats, he has a chance to view those around him more clearly --- and that changes his preconceptions and even his biases. We start to like him more, and we root for things to work out. Surely, on one of the repeating Thursdays, he will be able to save Mia somehow.

The ending is unexpected but quite satisfying. HOW TO SAVE A LIFE is a book with a moral but is not a moralistic read. Instead, it's an engrossing story of love, acceptance and change.

Reviewed by Pamela Kramer on July 17, 2020

How to Save a Life
by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

  • Publication Date: July 14, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • Paperback: 303 pages
  • Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1542005094
  • ISBN-13: 9781542005098