ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), Fiction, Women's Fiction

The Happy Life of Isadora Bentley, by Courtney Walsh

AVAILABLE June 13, 2023

See that date up there? June 13th? Mark it on your calendar. Mark it… Are you marking? You better be marking…

Oh, Isadora. I just love you. I want to be friends with you. Twenty years ago I think I was you. Why did I let your story sit in my Kindle for 4 months? This was a story that spoke to my heart. It is a story that will speak to the heart of any introverted, cerebral, never-married-but-wants-to-be woman in her thirties who wonders why that kind of happiness seems to only be reserved for other people.

Chicago University researcher, Isadora Bentley, is celebrating her thirtieth birthday. Alone. (Does that qualify as celebrating?) Alone except for the local mini mart’s sugary delicacies that await her in Aisle 8. Twinkies, chocolate, and a 2 liter of Coke have medicinal properties that the science world has yet to recognize. (If you know, you know.) While checking out, Isadora spots a headline on a magazine: 31 Steps to Happiness, by Dr. Grace Monroe. Ha! 31 Steps. What a crock. On a whim of rebellion, Isadora buys the magazine with the intent of testing Dr. Monroe’s theory. She will implement one step per day–in any order–record her findings, and prove, unequivocally, that happiness can never be achieved so simplistically.

Unfortunately, most of these steps involve interacting with other people. Yuck. People. People lead to feelings, and feelings lead to loss and sadness and hurt. And Isadora has been hurt. A lot. Who wants that? Alone is safe. Alone is comfortable. Alone is…sometimes not all it’s cracked up to be.

Except that when you are a university researcher like Isadora, who is supposed to be working with other people, being alone isn’t always an option. Her self-imposed solitude is interrupted when Isadora’s boss assigns her to work with opposite-of-ugly Dr. Cal Baxter, a psychologist preparing a book for publication and conducting his own experiment.

Over the next year, Isadora Bentley embarks on a roller coaster ride of self-discovery, soul-searching, emotions, and regret. This sounds heavy–and it is–except that all of this wisdom is dressed in so much hilarity (her inner dialogue made me LOL on multiple occasions) that you almost don’t realize that you, the reader, are learning something too. And there are feelings–deep, deep feelings–as our beloved heroine goes on this journey, realizing that, while defensive walls are sometimes necessary, they aren’t always the answer.

I adored this book, its writing, characters, and many insightful nuggets. It’s a treasure. I highly recommend it. Remember: June 13.

9.5/10 Stars

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