22 December 2010

Planning to Live, by Heather Wardell

From the Author's Site
Thirty-something Rhiannon is an obsessive planner and goal-setter, but somehow nothing she achieves ever seems good enough to her. Determined to lose forty pounds for her best friend's August wedding, Rhiannon flees her parents' house in a Christmas-day blizzard to avoid the temptation of all her favorite foods, but her car skids off the deserted road into a tree.
Unable to escape the car, with her leg trapped and bleeding and her cell phone out of reach, Rhiannon is at first certain she'll be rescued and writes notes to her friends and family to pass the time. As the weather cools and her condition deteriorates, though, she recognizes the possibility that her life might be over. Interspersed with increasingly desperate escape attempts, her letters become deeper and more heart-felt as she comes to see what really matters in life.

It's not a story I normally would have picked up to read, however I found it enjoyable.  The majority of the story is told in flashback and Rhiannon is definitely your standard high achiever and go-getter.  She's obsessed with goals and closes each day by running off her list of achievements while staring at herself in the mirror.  She applies the same methodical and diligent approach to all areas of her life, with her job as a brilliant programmer for a computer game, and with her attempt to lose weight.  There is a separate storyline with her former fiancĂ© that really did keep the first 100 pages turning and the event that separates "before" and "now" is definitely not what you would expect, but it helps to clear up why Rhiannon has become even more goal-obsessed.

However, it's clear that Rhiannon's way of life is debilitating.  No one can be this driven in life without losing something else in the process, and she is no different.  The sacrifices that she makes to always check each item off her list seem suffocating, and almost a never-ending cycle of never feeling good enough.  I did wish that the story had been told more in a third person voice versus first person -- at times it seemed tough to really get to know the character because Rhiannon herself may not have been familiar with who she truly was.  And maybe that was the goal, but I think I would have felt it a bit more grounded if told in a more removed voice.  There also were a few scenes that, with clapping and cheering from co-workers, seemed just a little contrived and fit more with a typical "Hollywood" moment than in a story of a real girl who is faced with a revelation at, potentially, the last moments of her life.

The story, though, was well written and paced -- Rhiannon is an "every-girl" character.  Relatable to many women, her struggle to lose weight is forefront, but underneath it, her thoughts of true happiness in life are overshadowed by the immediate danger that she is in.  While she struggles to stay alive, she writes letters to the people that mean the most to her and as she writes, she feels the strength to acknowledge that perhaps she didn't really live her life the way she should have.  Is the realization too little, too late?  Or is it too late, but enough?  Questions that all of us, at one point or another, go through.

It's a sad story, yet uplifting, and it did keep my interest.  While it still may not be the type of book I normally pick up in the future, I enjoyed the story, and felt a bit better for it.

Thanks to the Crazy Book Tours for providing a copy for my review.  Visit the author's site by clicking here.

Happy Reading,
Coffee and a Book Chick


  1. I'm glad u liked this book; it does sound a bit sad, but after reading Oogy, it would probably be just fine.

    I couldn't agree with you more, about stiffer penalties for animal abusers. I mean seriously, a defenseless animal being tortured? IMO, the victim should have the same done to them as a penalty.

    I hope you have a wonderful holiday.

  2. Sounds like a terrible way to lose 40 pounds. you make an interesting comment about the 1st person voice. It is hard to get a handle on a character when they aren't very self aware.

  3. I know I would not pick this book up, if I were to see it. I think you are right about the goal thing, there is always something that you lose if you live like that.

  4. Every once in a while I'll read something that isn't usually on my radar and it's often a very pleasant and memorable experience. It reminds me how many genres and talents are out there.

  5. For some reason, this sounds like a book that would really resonate with me, and I am eager to check it out. I also don't normally read these types of books, but the bit about being trapped in the car and writing out her innermost feelings sounds intriguing to me. I am going to be looking for this book. It sounds like one I would enjoy. By the way, I hope you and Jason have a wonderful holiday season this year and that Santa is good to both of you!! Merry Christmas!!

  6. Obsessed with goals, checking things off lists...sounds like a book I could relate to. Thanks for the review, I think I am going to have to read this one.

    Happy Holidays!!!

  7. Thanks for highlighting a book I may not have otherwise noticed, it's going straight on my wishlist. Great review :)

  8. ooooo, I've had this one down on my TBR but haven't gotten to it yet! The whole premise sounded like something I would definitely be interested in as I have been trapped in a car, dying...but when I was 18 with my life ahead of me. Obviously I was rescued. I so wonder - was she rescued? Were her letters read? Did she find absolution? Such a fantastic review!

  9. I read this book last year, and while I won't pick this kind of book either, it was written well. I did feel bothered by the contrived moments too.

  10. Sounds like an interesting premise for a book. I'm guessing or hoping that the character finally understood what really matters in life. I wouldn't mind reading the book to find out what happens to her.


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