- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: She Writes Press (August 13, 2019)
Jeanne Bridgeton, an unmarried executive in her late forties, discovers life doesn’t begin and end on a spreadsheet when her expected menopause instead becomes an unexpected pregnancy. Though accomplished at managing risk professionally, Jeanne realizes her skills don’t extend to her personal life, where she has allowed the professional and the personal to become intertwined. She’s not even sure which of two men in her life is the father. Worse yet, a previously undisclosed family secret reveals that she may carry a rare hereditary gene for early-onset Alzheimer’s―and it’s too late to get genetic tests. This leaves Jeanne to cope with her intense fear of risk without the aid of the mountain of data she’s accustomed to relying upon. Wrestling with the question of whether her own needs, or those of her child, should prevail takes Jeanne on an intensely emotional journey―one that ultimately leads to growth and enlightenment.
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Originally from Mount Vernon, New York, Joan Cohen received her BA from Cornell University and her MBA from New York University. She pursued a career in sales and marketing at computer hardware and software companies until she retired to return to school for an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has been a Massachusetts resident for many years, first living in Newton, where she raised her family, and later in Wayland. She now resides in Stockbridge, in the Berkshires, with her husband and golden retriever.
I was a little trepidatious about reading The Land of Last Chances. Novels that talk about things like aging and abortion can so often be preachy and insipid. What a relief to find that this was not the case with Joan Cohen’s wonderful creation!
Rather, this novel is a candid look at a woman in my age range (I turned 49 four days after this book was released) who is living a childfree existence, and suddenly finds herself pregnant rather than entering menopause, as she anticipated. That alone is enough to fill a plot, but Cohen has given our main character, Jeanne, so much else to deal with – more than one possible father for her baby, and the discovery of a family history of early-onset Alzheimer’s as well.
It could have all too easily become melodrama, but it didn’t. Rather, this novel is an emotionally truthful look at some very heavy issues, through the guise of fiction. Jeanne is a wonderfully realistic character, and feels like someone you could run into at work or at a coffee place, sometimes prickly, and sometimes engaging, always her own person. The supporting characters, and in particular Vince, are not quite as vivid, but were well-drawn, also.
Cohen’s plot was deftly crafted and perfectly paced. There was enough background to let us get to know the characters, but no so much that we were overloaded with unnecessary information. In short, this is a novel for adults, about adults, that covers adult themes, and it’s an extremely satisfying read in all respects.
Goes well with strong black tea and a tomato sandwich on multigrain bread.