Author: Shari Low
Twenty years ago, Carly Cooper went on an epic quest to track down all the men she’d ever loved and lost in the hope that one of them was her Mr Right.
Now, two decades and two teenage sons later, she thinks she might have got it all wrong.
As the years have passed, lots of things have changed, leaving Carly asking ‘What Now?’
With a divorce and an empty nest on the horizon, Carly sets off once more to Los Angeles with her band of trusty girlfriends, to find the carefree, wild and adventurous Carly Cooper that she used to be.
On this latest quest, Carly discovers a few home truths and has to decide If her marriage is worth saving or is there a new happy-ever-after out there, just waiting for her…
I read What If? and What Now? back to back, which is a rarity for me to actually (1) read the first before starting the second and (2) read them one after the other. I am thrilled that I did as they are both fantastic reads that follow along a fun set of characters. If you do pick-up this one without reading the first, you are able to understand everything that is going on with a little thought as there are previous events mentioned that aren’t fully re-explored in flashbacks or other discussions. I would not recommend reading this one and then returning for the first as events in this one spoil what happens in the first. From both novels, it is clear that Shari Low writes about a great group of women that makes you envious of their amazing and supportive friendship (I love my own friends, but I would not mind being adopted into this group)!
Our story about Carly Cooper picks up twenty years after the last novel left off, when she was more carefree at 30 years old. It is 2019 and she now has two sons and has recently separated from her husband. Her sons are written well as they are not only entertaining characters, but I love how relatable they are. Their interactions with their parents are very relatable as I can picture myself saying something similar to mine (even now)! Although she is happy with sons and is confident that she made the right choice in her separation, she starts to feel as if something is missing from her life and her spark is gone. She reminisces about the past and wonders how she got to this point and if she can work to find true happiness for herself.
When her ex-husband, Mark decides to take time off to travel around with their sons, it sets Carly off to wonder why they could not do that together as a family back in the day. It is a great insight into separations where a significant other makes changes only after they are not together anymore and you question why it could not happen before. It is something you see in media and with those around you, if you have not experienced it yourself, and it made Carly’s feelings very relatable. As a way to help Carly get her mind off of it, her friends arrange for them to go to Los Angeles to stay with Carly’s ex-boyfriend, and current friend, Sam Morton. Their friend group, along with Carly’s Aunt Val, takes off for their vacation in the States and Carly’s journey to healing begins.
The story flows really well as you are well into the novel before you even realize it as you become enthralled in the pages and time flies by. The story picks up a lot at the end. The writing itself is simple enough to follow, but still has a lot of heart behind it and is thought-provoking overall. The one thing that does bother me is how obsessed Carly gets with the weight she has gained (a UK size 14 – US size 12) as she is not overweight/big in the slightest. I understand how she can be disappointed in the fact that she’s not as slim as she was in her youth, but it seems to be an overreaction when she’s still an average weight. Weight is a common factor for people to focus on when they are feeling low, which Carly definitely was during a lot of this story, but it just seemed to a little overkill in the amount of times it is mentioned.
Carly’s journey is very thought-provoking as she has to question if her marriage is worth saving or if it is time for a change. She struggles with the idea that Mark may or may not still be the perfect person for her and it was well done to see her inner thoughts and how she weighs the pros and cons of each choice. Her thoughts and actions are more mature, which matches the fact that she is now older in this novel, while still showcasing her original personality that readers enjoyed in the first novel. She goes through a lot of emotions in this story and it was heart-warming and interesting to read how she goes through each. Her friends and family make an excellent support system and I love how Carly cares for them just as much as they care for her. It is very refreshing and enjoyable to read stories with this type of relationship as some novels tend to show a skewed, or even, a one-sided friendship, so it was nice that theirs seemed two-way.
Overall, I enjoyed this one and honestly cannot say if this one or the other was better as they are two entirely different novels in a way, even though they are about the same cast of characters in the same story. Carly’s girlfriend group and Sam are great additions to her time in Los Angeles and they have fun times together, but also manage to have thoughtful conversations. The entire novel manages to balance the fun with the serious to create a fantastic novel! Shari Low has become a must read author for me and I hope to read more of her stories in the future as I greatly enjoy how she centers our main character with a great support system!