Devastated by her mother’s death, Brett Bohlinger consumes a bottle of outrageously expensive Champagne and trips down the stairs at the funeral luncheon. Add embarrassed to devastated. Could things get any worse? Of course they can, and they do—at the reading of the will.
Instead of inheriting the position of CEO at the family’s cosmetics firm—a position she has been groomed for—she’s given a life list she wrote when she was 14 and an ultimatum: Complete the goals, or lose her inheritance. Luckily, her mother, Elizabeth, has crossed off some of the more whimsical goals, including running with the bulls—too risky! Having a child, buying a horse, building a relationship with her (dead) father, however, all remain. Brad, the handsome attorney charged with making sure Brett achieves her goals, doles out a letter from her mother with each success. Warmly comforting, Elizabeth’s letters uncannily—and quite humorously—predict Brett’s side of the conversations. Brett grudgingly begins by performing at a local comedy club, an experience that proves both humiliating and instructive: Perfection is overrated, and taking risks is exhilarating. Becoming an awesome teacher, however, seems impossible given her utter lack of classroom management skills. Teaching homebound children offers surprising rewards, though. Along Brett’s journey, many of the friends (and family) she thought would support her instead betray her. Luckily, Brett’s new life is populated with quirky, sharply drawn characters, including a pregnant high school student living in a homeless shelter, a psychiatrist with plenty of time to chat about troubled children, and one of her mother’s dearest, most secret companions. A 10-step program for the grief-stricken, Brett’s quest brings her back to love, the best inheritance of all.
Spielman’s debut charms as Brett briskly careens from catastrophe to disaster to enlightenment.