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This Was Not the Plan


This Was Not the Plan

THIS WAS NOT THE PLAN was written to become a movie. The clear-cut story with one big surprise has a such a cinematic feel that it’s destined to be a chick lit adaptation starring Jennifer Aniston and Ryan Reynolds. Forty-somethings affected by tragedy, overwork and their own sad childhoods find their way around the wilds of Manhattan, maintaining a gentle outsider status so that we will relate to them. However, most of the physical elements of their life are Nancy Meyers-inspired riches --- apartments that feel like homes, summer cottages that look like McMansions in the Hamptons, and high-profile positions in places most of us would die to work.

Like a Dickens novel transitioned through the wheelhouse of entrepreneurial millennials who have no time for literary craft, THIS WAS NOT THE PLAN tries to reach for places it can’t necessarily climb. But the resulting book is a beach read of the first order, with just the right amount of sad, rich people and funny, smartass dialogue to keep any reader hooked throughout its short and sweet story. 

"THIS WAS NOT THE PLAN isn’t going to revolutionize literature, but its playful sense of hope and longing will resonate with readers."

Charlie Goldwyn has it made --- sort of. A hardworking guy who came from nothing to the brink of partnership in one of Manhattan’s top law firms, he has some remorse about all the white collar criminals he is helping to put back on the golden toilets of their CEO offices. He has a son, a beautiful little boy named Caleb, who is scared of natural disasters and loves dressing in girls’ clothes. He is not the most popular baby in his preschool class, but he holds his own, thanks to the encouragement of his aunt Zadie, who cares for him after the death of his mother in a famous plane crash.

Charlie is trying to maneuver so many pathways, but none of them is making him the least bit happy. After delivering a freeform and drunk-inspired rant at a company event, he is given the Jerry Maguire treatment and is fired. At the same time, his sister is getting married to the crazy stoner she’s been hanging with for the last couple of years, and his son is having a breakdown, needing his father more than ever. 

What will Charlie do?

He will meet another Stay at Home Dad (SAHD, not pronounced “sad,” btw) and discover the joys (sort of) of taking care of one’s own offspring and finding a connection with his son in a way he could not have forged with his own father, a rich man who left his mother in the lurch after an affair led to her being pregnant with twins. Charlie’s mom and wife are dead, and he doesn’t know where his dad is.

Finally, thanks to his new buds, a mentor who cares and the secret life of his mom, Charlie becomes acquainted with ideas that lead him to a brand new life, one he never would have dreamt of on his own. 

At the risk of being sexist, I’m not sure why Charlie is a guy. I never feel like he’s going through particularly masculine issues, except that he feels uncomfortable milling around with the glitterati Housewives of the Upper East Side he encounters at his son’s school. His character and his plight could be played by a woman, too --- the plight he is trying to overcome is a typical outside-parent-finds-life-outside-corporate-hell story. But the crazy family Charlie ends up discovering is worth sticking through the more mundane beginning.

THIS WAS NOT THE PLAN isn’t going to revolutionize literature, but its playful sense of hope and longing will resonate with readers.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on March 3, 2016

This Was Not the Plan
by Cristina Alger

  • Publication Date: October 18, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • ISBN-10: 1501103768
  • ISBN-13: 9781501103766