The Way Life Should Be: A Novel

The Way Life Should Be: A Novel

by Christina Baker Kline

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From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Orphan Train, and the critically acclaimed author of Bird in Hand, comes a novel of love, risk, and self-discovery—includes a special PS section featuring insights, interviews, and more.

Angela can feel the clock ticking. She is single in New York City, stuck in a job she doesn’t want and a life that seems to have, somehow, just happened.  She inherited a flair for Italian cooking from her grandmother, but she never seems to have the time for it—these days, her oven holds only sweaters. Tacked to her office bulletin board is a photo from a magazine of a tidy cottage on the coast of Maine—a charming reminder of a life that could be hers, if she could only muster the courage to go after it.

On a hope and a chance, Angela decides to pack it all up and move to Maine, finding the nudge she needs in the dating profile of a handsome sailor who loves dogs and Italian food.  But her new home isn’t quite matching up with the fantasy. Far from everything familiar, Angela begins to rebuild her life from the ground up. Working at a local coffeehouse, she begins to discover the pleasures and secrets of her new small-town community and, in the process, realizes there’s really no such thing as the way life should be.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061857256
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/13/2009
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 5,282
File size: 653 KB

About the Author

Christina Baker Kline is the author of six novels, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Orphan Train as well as A Piece of the World. She lives outside New York City and spends as much time as possible on the coast of Maine. Learn more about Christina at

Read an Excerpt

The Way Life Should Be

Chapter One

After college I wanted to apply to culinary school, but my father, who is an accountant, objected. "Cooking isn't a real job," he said.

"Too much hard work," my stepmother chimed in. "Terrible hours. Take my advice, Angela: Get a normal job where you can leave at five. You'll thank me when you have children."

"Nonsense. Carpe diem!" my mother exclaimed long-distance, but I wasn't inclined to take her advice. When she ran off with Murray Singer, she didn't just leave my father, she abandoned my brother and me. I overheard the arguments before she left—she needed a clean break, she wasn't emotionally equipped to deal with needy children, my father had always been the better parent anyway. She and Murray moved across the country to Portland, Oregon, and I only saw her three times before, in my midtwenties, she was killed in a car accident. My brother and I flew out to the funeral, but it was hard to feel much for a woman who had written us out of her life fifteen years earlier, when we needed her most.

So after college I moved to New York City with Lindsay, my best friend from high school. We rented an apartment near the river on the Upper East Side and did temp work at consulting firms while looking for normal jobs where we could leave at five. I cast a wide net for positions available to liberal arts majors with no discernible skills except the ability to make lists, follow directions, and look fairly presentable. As in a game of musical chairs, the music stopped at event planning, and I sat down.

For the past five years I've been planning events at the Hunts-worth Museum, amodish showcase for contemporary art in lower Manhattan. While I like some things about my job—the long-term planning combined with last-minute urgencies, the immediate gratification of momentary accomplishment, the blinking red light on my phone and the jaunty sherbet pop-up Post-its in a little box on my desk—I also have to admit that it's no longer much of a challenge. For the first few years the learning curve was steep, but now my days are spent gliding across a smooth plateau of predictability. I can't erase the nagging sense that there's something else out there for me, if only I knew which direction to take.

It's midmorning and I'm sitting at my desk sipping my second cup of coffee, researching novelty circus acts online. My big project at the moment is a black-tie gala four weeks from now, a benefit for a new wing of avant-garde art featuring the works of the French artist Zoë Devereux. Mary Quince, the curator and my boss, has said only that she wants "color, pizzazz, an element of the outrageous." My idea is to stage an evening that animates figures from Zoë Devereux's paintings—circus and carnival performers, acrobats and fire-eaters and jugglers.

Mimes, jesters, clowns, you name it, apparently they're all for hire, à la carte or as a group. I print out a selection of options to discuss with Mary and start e-mailing several of the acts to see if they're available to perform on September 19. As I'm tapping out an e-mail, my glance strays to the small ad at the bottom right of the screen:

Looking for Your Love Match: Do Soul Mates Exist?

My finger hesitates for a moment over the mouse, and then I click on thetiny blue typeface.

I have found that the biggest moments in life, the ones that change everything, usually catch you by surprise. You might not even recognize them as they happen. Your finger is straying over the mouse and you click on the icon and suddenly you find yourself at the portal of a website—an embarrassingly named website, one that makes you wince:

Now why would you ever be drawn to such a place? More important, why would you linger?

A few days ago, during our usual Monday morning check-in, I told Lindsay about the abysmal blind date I'd been on the Saturday night before, and then waited to hear the details of hers.

"Well," Lindsay said, "it wasn't, actually."

"Wasn't what?"

"Abysmal. Believe it or not."

Riffling through the cluttered filing cabinet of my brain, I retrieved a scrap of memory: Lindsay joined an online dating service about a month ago. An amateur photographer took her picture. The resulting image, an off-the-shoulder embarrassment in soft focus, provoked a deluge of responses, mostly from shady guys on Long Island. "Don't tell me—it's Hot4U," I joked.

Lindsay laughed uncomfortably. It was clear she regretted sharing this detail. "Actually, it is," she said. "But the name is tongue-in-cheek. You know, an ironic commentary on the whole online-dating thing."

"I see," I said dubiously.

She sighed. "This guy is so great, Ange. So cute, so nice. So smart. I don't know. This is going to sound crazy, but I think maybe I've found my soul mate."

"Are you kidding? It's—pretty soon to be talking soul mates, isn't it, Linz?"

"Iknow!" she said. "Aren't you happy for me?"

That night, after a dinner of four warm Krispy Kremes straight from the bag, I climbed into a sudsy bath and closed my eyes. How many people, I wondered, can actually claim to have found their soul mate, the one person in the world destiny has set aside for them? Not many, I'd bet. I'm skeptical that there is such a thing. I'm inclined to believe that the whole concept of a soul mate is like Sasquatch, the giant hairy ape-man of legend who turned out to be nothing more than a guy in a monkey suit running through a forest.

But now, sitting at my desk, I think—if Lindsay believes she's actually found her soul mate, who am I to scoff and ridicule?

When you read the Sunday wedding section—the women's sports page, as Lindsay calls it—to see . . .

The Way Life Should Be. Copyright ? by Christina Kline. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Lauren Fox

“A book about love and disappointment and risk and risotto, utterly appealing on every level.”

Jacquelyn Mitchard

“[Christina Baker Kline] is not only a deft and snappy writer, but a true cartographer of the human heart.”

Dani Shapiro

“A story about the way life really can be, with a little bit of luck and just the right seasoning.”

Customer Reviews

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Way Life Should Be 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
prettybrainy More than 1 year ago
Stumbled upon this book on the clearance table. I thought what the heck, if I don't like it I can just donate it. I was caught off guard how much I fell in love with this book. I could not put it down and read the entire book in two days (I'm a slow reader). I laughed and cried. Wonderful and relaxing read.
dailyreaderMA More than 1 year ago
Cute, fast, upbeat story you can read in one sitting. It made me smile!
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Angela makes a major mistake on the job and is fired, as this was never the dream job she is now stuck in a spot where she must do something to find where she would eventually want to be.  In a very small remote town in Maine she meets a cast of characters with quite the personalities and each of them help her find herself.  I have read a few books that have this same concept as woman goes to the middle of nowhere to find a new path, but I loved that a dating website took her there - gave the book some originality.  I loved using the remoteness of this town in Maine to make Angela feel even more isolated and made her really look within herself to find out where her true passions lay.  
Yankee2dj More than 1 year ago
I finished within a few nights. Not because I was so interested, but it was a light read. I enjoyed the writers style and while it was a little predicitable, I was entertained. If you want a quick beach read (or have a lazy weekend) and like your basic "girl meets boy, he's a dud, she becomes a better version of herself" this would be a hit for you.
bookchickdi More than 1 year ago
This book has so much that ticked all my boxes- Angela is a strong woman, Flynn is adorable, there are  lots of delicious descriptions of food (recipes included), a group of interesting new friends (with secrets) and a setting that is new to me (I must visit Acadia National Park). As someone who has planned events, I found that part of the story fascinating. And any book that has food at its core, if it is well done like this is, will always appeal to me. I also liked that the characters are not one-dimensional (except the wicked stepmother). Angela's boyfriend Richard could have been the stock guy-who-is-really-a-jerk, but Kline gives him shades of color that made him more interesting. The relationships- Angela and Nonna, Angela and Flynn, Angela and Lindsay- are so believable, you wish you were Angela. I will warn you that The Way Life Should Be will inspire you to dig out all of your food utensils and give Angela's recipes, like Pasta e Fagioli, Chicken Marsala and Basil Marinara, a try. When Tom asks Angela who she really is, she thinks "the stories we tell about ourselves are filled with half-truths, distorted recollections, and blind spots as well as occasional moments of insight. It's all in the spin, isn't it?" And, I for one, liked the spin of Angela's story.
mrmodel-t More than 1 year ago
As a Mainer and a book club member this was our book. I was hoping it painted Maine in a good light and that it was possible for a guy to read. The character was well developed and the scenario was believable. The characters were all imports to Maine and the author painted a picture of non-natives interacting with the geography and each other rather than the true native population and values. After reading, I found I reluctantly enjoyed the book and suspect it could be enjoyed by all audiences.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A rich beautiful story.  One of the best I have read in a long time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't put this down, great read and reminds me of my nonna and family...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Life Lesson: When one door closes, Another opens. Great cast of characters for the big screen.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Thirty-three years old Angela Russo hates her boring job, but that is not why she feels her life stinks. The single Manhattanite detests the bunch of losers she has been set up with and vows to never accept a blind date again. Her passion is Italian cooking, but she never bakes anything except her sweaters. On the office bulletin board is a magazine picture of a cottage on coastal Maine that just adds to Angela¿s belief that there must be more to life than cement. Surfing at work, Angela clicks on an ad Do Soulmates Exist? That takes her to a dating website 'MaineCatch,'. She finds Rich, a thirty-five-year-old sailing instructor living alone on Mount Desert island. She makes contact and they start to communicate. When she loses her job, she joins her ideal man on his paradise island, but he fails to hold up. Angela decides to stay and make a life for herself here. She rents a rundown cottage and starts teaching Italian cooking to excited local students as she creates a recipe for a new life. --- The key to this fine character study is the Italian cooking that refreshes the overly used urbanite finding happiness in a rustic setting in fact the story line could have reversed itself from rural to city and easily work. Instead of easily adjusting Angela struggles with the differing lifestyle than what she has lived or imagined. However, the cooking coming from her grandma¿s recipes bring a unique element to the eclectic islanders as the heroine makes friends due to her skill and passion for Italian cuisine even as she feels for the most part like a fish out of water. Fans will root for Angela as she learns what she though was THE WAY LIFE SHOULD BE is not, but what is the way life should be is what you bring to the table for others to partake. --- Harriet Klausner
Heart2Heart More than 1 year ago
Being single and living in New York with a busy Italian family can be difficult enough as Angela Russo already knows. In her family, they always want what is best for her and have no problems letting her know their opinions. As an event planner, she is waiting to make her mark in her job so that she can take on bigger projects. That is why it is critical that she pulls this one off without a hitch. Not only that but her best friend Lindsey has found her soul mate through the wonders of internet dating and believe Angela should give it a try. So much is changing around her that it is hard to please everyone especially in her family and it seems her once peace of mind comes from cooking with her Italian grandmother known as Nonna who conveys a love of cooking while dispensing out bits of sage wisdom. Is it possible that life hands things to you and at times we simply let them slip through our fingers without thought that our happiness may have been right in front of us through a series of chance encounters all along? So Angela decides to give it a go and dreams that her match might just live in the coastal charming cottage she has on her office bulletin in Maine, so they is where she begins her search. She never imagines that she might one day be telling her own children and grandchildren how their parents met, through a internet dating site that spelled love at first sight and would lead to happily ever after. Ah but not everything is as it appears and even though Angela has a date scheduled to coincide with her arriving in New York to meet some very influential clients, she isn't prepared for the disaster at her job that will leave her questioning everything. Is falling in love really all it's cracked up to be even though everyone around her seems to have no problem finding it but her? In the latest novel The Way Life Should Be from Christina Baker Kline, she gives readers a glance at the world of Internet dating for a struggling single woman living in New York. The characters she writes about feel like real people as they weave in and out of Angela's life. My favorite is definitely Nonna, who shares her passion for cooking as well as her passion for life in the time that they spend together. She makes Angela realize that all her choices need to be hers and not at the whims of well-meaning family and friends, because in the end, it will be the life she is left with. She can be happy or unhappy but only she can be the one to make that choice. Along the way, Angela makes some brave choices leaving her entire life and family behind to follow a dream even though it doesn't materialize the way she dreamed. It teaches her more than advice does and along the way she meets some really great people who will be there for her when she needs them the most. I received The Way Life Should Be by Christina Baker Kline compliments of William Morrow, a division of Harper Collins Publishers for my honest review. I did not receive any monetary compensation for a favorable review and the opinions contained in this review are strictly my own. There is a reader discussion guide and some fantastic recipes I can't wait to try at the conclusion of this novel. I give this novel a 4 out of 5 stars. There is some sexual content and profanity but overall the story is well written and I easily read this in a couple of hours it was simply that great!
Anonymous 28 days ago
DoranneLongPTMS 9 months ago
I enjoyed reading this book immensely; it felt real. I could relate to the characters along with their dreams and life's endeavors.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Book ended very suddenly and had way too many recipes. I didnt want a cookbook, i wanted a good novel.
thornton37814 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Angela is running on auto-pilot as an event planner in New York City when she makes a mistake that causes her to lose her job. She turns to the guy she met through an online match service and leaves for Maine to "find herself." I do not approve of pre-marital or extra-marital sex, and this book had too much of the former for my tastes. I did enjoy the descriptions of cooking and food throughout this book. I enjoyed the part of the plot that related to cooking, food, and to the friends she made on the island. I enjoyed her interaction with her Italian grandmother who taught her to cook.
missysbooknook on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is not typical of the kinds of books that I read. It is a romance (sort of) but there is more than that going on. Angela Russo sets her sights on a man that she meets on the internet. Things do not work out between them, BUT....that is a good thing for Angela. It gives her the chance to do what heart tells her to do.Angela's love for cooking she inherits from her Italian grandmother (Nonna). Nonna lives with Angela's father and stepmother, and teaches Angela many lessons. Nonna confides in Angela a deep dark secret that no one else knows about. This secret gives her pause to think about her own life and how she wants to live it.My Thoughts: This is a "feel good" story about a woman who changes her path in life, and finds happiness along the way. I admire this character in what she accomplishes on her own. This novel warmed my heart while reading it, and left me content as a cat in a sunny window upon finishing it!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
beh88 More than 1 year ago
Loved this story as much as "bird in hand" if not straight through the night...have placed "holds" on two more by this author at my library...
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