Once in a Lifetime
by Suzanne Mattaboni
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Pub Date 24 May 2022 | Archive Date 10 Jun 2022
Sweetbitter meets Bridget Jones in a John Hughes movie, Once in a Lifetime is young women's fiction that plays against a vibrant 1980s background of everything from slam dancers and rubber jelly shoes to social anarchy and AIDS.
Once in a Lifetime is a girl-power, coming-of-age debut novel set during college break, 1984. Ambitious 20-year-old art student Jess spends an adventurous summer waitressing for tips in New Hope, PA, a crazy, progressive river town, to save for a semester abroad in New Wave London, England. She falls for a daredevil guitarist, becomes buds with a drag queen, gets into a triangle with the guitarist and the ex who tossed her off when she announced plans for London, and tests her friendships with her avant-garde roommates. In the end she realizes she needs to do what's right for her—not for any guy.
Suzanne Mattaboni is a Pushcart-nominated fiction writer, blogger, essayist, journalist, Newsweek Expert Forum contributor and corporate PR consultant. A former community service reporter for Newsday, her work has been published in Seventeen, Parents, Child, The Huffington Post, Mysterious Ways, Guideposts, 50 Word Stories, Dark Dossier, Motherwell, Turtle, and The Best of LA . Suzanne is a past first-place winner of Seventeen magazine’s Art and Fiction Contest. Her short fiction, essays, and poetry have appeared in anthologies including the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, Pizza Parties and Poltergeist, Little Demon Digest, Running Wild Anthology of Stories, and What’s a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Relationship Like This? She is also currently a host of The Banzai Retro Club podcasts, which focus on pop-culture of the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. She was the editor of the Writes of Passage 2021 anthology, which debuted at number 17 on Amazon in the anthology category. She has two talented children, one hysterically fun husband, and two ever-ravenous cats.
A Note From the Publisher
Author is available for interviews, contributed articles, guest posts, Q&As, and expert commentary.
"Wow. What a read. The characters are rich and in-depth. They pull you through the story and make it an enjoyable ride. The setting brings the ‘80s to life, and reminds the reader love, fun, hopes and dreams are timeless topics no matter what they are dressed in. Suzanne has captured the essence of the timeless struggles of youth and opportunity."
—The And I Thought Ladies, Award-winning Literary Lifestyle Brand
"A smart and entertaining read, the writing shines with engaging imagery and insights about the nature of creativity ... In Once in a Lifetime, Suzanne Mattaboni again showcases her writing prowess through humorous and quirky prose, following the antics of overly ambitious art student (and wayward, temporary waitress) Jessica Addentro as she and her band of avant-garde roommates navigate the new wave-charged summer of 1984. As she desperately works to kick-start her romantic and artistic life outside the boundaries of her college dorms, she deals with everything from mystical bosses, gritty punk concerts, a drag queen buddy with military training, livid restaurant patrons—and a gorgeous bass guitarist who climbs through her window and makes her head spin like a record. This new romantic tryst makes her feel she’s coming closer to that elusive, exciting life of music, creative potency, and near-fame she’s convinced she’s destined for—or when the dust clears, it could just present another barrier between her and her goals.
... Mattaboni stays true to her own solid feminist roots, considering the piece is being billed as a romantic comedy that’s not all about the guy. It rather keeps the emphasis on a set of core female relationships that make this story stand up and come to life. However imperfect the young women in this novel are, and as much as they falter in trying to push their lives forward, they are staggeringly devoted to supporting one another."
—Johnny Bigg, Los Angeles Wire magazine
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Ambitious 20-year-old art student Jess spends an adventurous summer waitressing for tips in New Hope, PA, a crazy, progressive river town, to save for a semester abroad in New Wave London, England. She falls for a daredevil guitarist, becomes buds with a drag queen, gets into a triangle with the guitarist and the ex who tossed her off when she announced plans for London, and tests her friendships with her avant-garde roommates. In the end she realizes she needs to do what's right for her—not for any guy. The author’s style places the reader in the book in each scene for an entertaining journey.
𝐈 𝐰𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐢𝐭 𝐚𝐥𝐥. 𝐈𝐬𝐧’𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐲 𝐭𝐨𝐥𝐝 𝐮𝐬 𝐰𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞? 𝐖𝐞’𝐫𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐧 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 ‘𝟖𝟎𝐬.
𝐖𝐞 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐢𝐭 𝐚𝐥𝐥.
𝐍𝐨 𝐨𝐧𝐞 𝐦𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐞𝐝 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐰𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐡𝐚𝐩𝐩𝐞𝐧 𝐢𝐟 𝐰𝐞 𝐠𝐨𝐭 𝐢𝐭.
If The Breakfast Club and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants had a love child it would be this book!! A coming of age tale set in 1984 it follows 20 year old Jess and her 3 college roommates/best friends as they leave their university in Pittsburgh to live and work in New Hope, PA for the summer.
Jess’ goal is to waitress her way to the funding she needs to study art abroad in London, but she ends up gaining so much more before the summer is over. In an age where suddenly the sky is the limit and possibilities are becoming endless, everyone is just trying to get the most out of life…and maybe figure out who they are and what they want in the process.
The cast of characters in this story is memorable and priceless. Between each of the characters, their stories, and the pure nostalgia this entire book gives you, it truly makes the ride as fun and meaningful as any 80’s rock song, hairstyle, or classic movie. I will also note as someone who was born and raised just outside of Philadelphia by parents who were children of the 80’s born and raised in the same place (one of them with strong Italian heritage), I can appreciate the author’s attention to detail in even the smallest aspects of this book (shout out to WMMR!!). It was really well crafted and between the details, the prose used in some areas, and the style of writing, this book read as if it were its own abstract piece of artwork.
The 4 girls truly made this book. Jess with her well planned out life and the mess she ends up making of everything in the process, Trina with her successful and over the top ways but with massive insecurity and a constant fear of judgement, Kimmer with her larger than life heart that makes her a doormat for everyone around her FINALLY finding something good and seeing what she’s worth and truly deserves, and Audrey, the glue who holds them all together, who is as motherly as she is sensitive and as deep and complex as she is nurturing. Each of their stories apart and together rang so true and realistic and they truly made this book everything it was.
The side characters leave just as much of an impression though. Giorgio, the owner of the restaurant Capresi’s where Jess secures her summer job, is the quintessential sage Italian grandparent figure. I knew him, I lived next door to him, I spoke with him at the deli on Ford Street, I celebrated family holidays with him, I was related to him. He lived right off the page for me in the sweetest, most entertaining ways and every time he said “we take care of our own” it made you feel like that included you too. Teddy, the sous chef at Capresi’s, was so Philly it made me laugh. Loud, crass, but with a heart of pure gold he stole my heart right away but then claimed it for good in a sweet twist by the end of his story. Miz Love was a tarot card reading, charismatic, piece of work but I couldn’t help but love her and her mischievous ways!! Tye, better known as the drag queen Babylonia, stole my freaking heart!! Miz Love and Tye and their tenuous business partnership represented the fine line between following your dreams and living in poverty, and Tye beautifully articulated the tightrope walk between being your authentic self in an unaccepting world, and the fear and constant concern that was the AIDS epidemic in the 80’s. And the girls’ apartment neighbors, the sheltered housewife Paula and the stereotypical stoner named Russell, though they seemed like afterthought characters, both packed powerful life lessons of their own.
The boys of Jess’ summer; her long time boyfriend Drew who she parted ways with to avoid a long distance relationship, and Whit the quiet but deep musician who spoke to her creative side and made her come alive, were both engaging, attractive, and stood out in their own ways. Jess’ somewhat lopsided love triangle (that she didn’t see as a love triangle) was messy and really showed her immaturity, but beautifully illustrated the pitfalls brought by the “have it your way/have it all” uprising within the female empowerment of that generation. The lessons and maturity that came out of it were very well done, however, and while the fate of some things were left up to your imagination it certainly leaves room for hope that each one of them finds who they truly are in the end, whether together or apart.
All in all I enjoyed every moment of this book and highly recommend it to anyone who may be looking for a nostalgic trip down memory lane with fresh and fun characters. This book is full of fun, life lessons, heart, and more 80’s music and pop culture references than “I Love the 80’s”. If you’re looking for a good solid stand alone read with tons of heart then pick this book up, try the Neapolitan Cheesecake, and enjoy the ride.
Thank you so much to NetGalley, TouchPoint Press, and the author for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
I am VERY excited to read this book. However, there is a formatting issue on the digital galley that makes it difficult to read. I will purchase on my own when it comes out later this month!
This was like a new wave 80’s punk rock version of Mystic Pizza. 4 college roommates move to a town together and room in a one bedroom crap basement apartment with dreams of making money waitressing in a “restaurant” town to use towards their various hopes and dreams. The focus is on one particular girl, Jess, a college junior, who is sort of stuck feeling like she hasn’t reached true adulthood yet and is ready to experience life. She’s working on earning money for a student program in London as an aspiring artist and also finds herself in a love triangle. I felt this story started off slow and it took a while for me to really become involved in the characters lives. I really almost put it down in the first half but I am glad I didn’t. The second half really picked up and delved deep into the roommates relationships with each other, the relationship Jess formed with her employer and coworkers (inside your will find a pretenders concert, a cool multitalented drag queen, a most surprising caring boss, and even a tarot card reading ending with some good advice). I think anyone who has been a college student standing on the brink of leaving behind your adolescence and hovering over real adulthood could relate to this book. As an added bonus, it had all the elements of 1984 which made it a fun read. I loved the full circle ending and left it wanting to know more about the roommates lives after their amazing summer of ’84.
Thank you to @netgalley for this E-ARC read and allowing me to provide my honest review and opinion. Also the cover is pretty dope!
Die Geschichte spielt in den 80ern, genauer gesagt, im Sommer 1984. Jessica und ihre 3 Freundinnen verbringen den Sommer in New Hope, um dort als Kellnerinnen in Doppelschichten Geld zu verdienen für das weitere Studium, und natürlich, um in Clubs zu gehen und zu leben. Die Mädels sind Anfang 20 und bereit fürs wahre Leben. Für Abenteuer. Fürs Erwachsen-sein. Für Spass. Für Action. Es sind die 80er, und hier ist die erste Generation Frauen, die alles haben kann, was sie will. Jessica ist Kunststudentin, und ihr Traum ist es, in London zu studieren. London ist die grosse Verheissung, denn nur dort, so denkt Jess, ist die Kunst zuhause, nur dort vibriert die Inspiration. Und Jess ist ehrgeizig, sie verfolgt ihre Träume – genau wie ihre Freundinnen auch. Und so folgen wir den Mädels durch einen Sommer voller Arbeit, in denen sie Bekanntschaft mit Drag Queens und teils anstrengenden Gästen machen. Aber auch durch einen Sommer voller Musik, Parties und coolen Musikern und Beziehungsdramen – das volle Leben also 😊. Und am Ende werden alle ein wenig mehr über sich selbst gelernt haben, und sich weiterentwickelt haben – ob mit oder ohne Boyfriend 😉.
Also, was soll ich sagen – ich fand das Buch cool. Ich bin in den 80ern aufgewachsen, ich war 1984 ein wenig jünger als die 4 Freundinnen, aber für mich kam das damalige Lebensgefühl perfekt rüber. Die Musik. Der Punk. Die coolen Jungs 😉. Die Aufregung darüber, dass endlich das wahre Leben startet, oder zumindest vor der Tür steht. Und natürlich die Mode, hahahaha, ich habe echt gelacht, wenn die Mädels sich gemeinschaftlich zum ausgehen aufgebretzelt haben und die Schulterpolster platziert haben!
Der Roman lebt zu einem gutem Teil von der authentischen Atmosphäre. Jedes Kapitel ist mit einem Songtitel versehen, und allein dadurch wird ein Feeling gesetzt. Der Zeitgeist ist einfach gut eingefangen, in allen Facetten. Es war ja nicht nur alles Party und Punk und Glam, sondern – und das thematisiert der Roman auch – das war die Dekade, in der AIDS aufkam und vieles verändert hat.
Aber auch ohne dass man – wie ich jetzt – in Nostalgie schwelgt und sich an die eigene Jugend erinnert fühlt, ist das Buch gut geschrieben. Alle Protagonisten, auch die Nebendarsteller, sind gut beschrieben, und „echt“. Ich war von Seite 1 an drin in der Story. Die 340 Seiten lesen sich super weg, das Buch ist flüssig geschrieben. Ich habe die englische Ausgabe gelesen (eine deutsche gibt es glaube ich auch noch gar nicht), und fand es vom Stil her sehr gut lesbar als Nicht-Muttersprachlerin.
So, ich mach es kurz: ich hatte viel Spass mit Jessica, Audrey, Trina und Kimmer, und empfehle das Buch sehr gerne weiter!
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