Wednesday, 24 June 2020

Book Review: Better Luck Next Time by Kate Hilton

Better Luck Next Time
Kate Hilton

Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Publication date: 16th June 2020
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 368
RRP: $29.99AUD
Format read: paperback
Source: Courtesy of the publisher

It isn’t easy being related to a feminist icon, especially when she’s celebrating the greatest moment of her storied career.

Just ask the daughters of Lydia Hennessey, who could have it all if only they’d stop self-destructing. Mariana, the eldest, is on the verge of throwing away a distinguished reputation in journalism, along with her marriage. Nina, the middle daughter, has returned from a medical mission overseas as a changed woman but won’t discuss it with anyone. And Beata, the youngest, has a hostile teenaged son who just discovered the existence of a father who didn’t know about him either. Meanwhile, their cousin Zoe is making divorce look like a death match, while her brother, Zack, is grappling with the fallout from his popular television dramedy, which is based far too closely on Lydia herself.

It might be easier to find their paths if they could step out of Lydia’s shadow—but the biggest women’s march in history is underway, and Lydia and her family are at the centre of it.

Over the course of an eventful year, the Hennessey children contend with the big struggles of midlife: aging parents, raging teens, crumbling marriages and bodies, new loves and the choice between playing it safe or taking life-altering risks. And as they inch toward a new definition of happiness, they might even persuade their parents—and themselves—that they’re all grown up.

Better Luck Next Time is a generational comedy with a subtle theme of feminism.

The story opens on a Hennessey Christmas where the Hennesseys and the Goldstein-Hennesseys all come together for Christmas lunch. This opening family Christmas scene is both tragically funny and wholly relatable. The room is in chaos, some are simply there out of duty and want to get the day over with.

There is quite a cast of characters in this extended family and Kate Hilton has them listed in the front pages but it doesn’t take long to get the idea of who is related to who.

I immediately liked Zoe who is reticent to tell her overbearing mother that she had recently separated from her husband. Zoe had a wonderful relationship with her younger brother Zack and it was nice to see them opening up to each other. Their friendly banter and ribbing come across as fun and natural.

Mariana, Nina and Beata are siblings, cousins to Zoe and Zack. Nina doesn’t feature much in the story but when she does it is heart-breaking and meaningful.

Mariana is a high flying journalist unhappy with her marriage but feels trapped with a no-hoper husband and young twins to bring up.

Beata, a single mother and Reiki specialist, has dedicated her life to raising her 15 year old son Oscar. She now wonders how she ended up with an angry teenager who slams doors and won’t talk.

Putting their grievances aside the family comes together as family matriarch and well known feminist Lydia Hennessey plans to lead the upcoming feminist march with coordinating marches across the country

The story follows the Hennessey family over the course of one eventful year which will see separations, bridal showers, secrets divulged and a confrontation ending in hospitalisation. The Hennessey’s are anything but boring!

Better Luck Next Time is a light easy read that is filled with relevant issues such as divorce, dating after divorce, single parenthood, secrets, gay relationships, self love and family. Hilton’s characters are highly relatable. You might find yourself in one of the characters or little bits of yourself in all of them.

Kate Hilton tests the six degrees of separation theory, again and again, but in most cases here it is on about two degrees which makes for some awkwardly funny situations.

This is not a dysfunctional family it is just an all round normal family finding their way in love and life.

Better Luck Next Time is everything it promised to be; funny, engaging and highly relatable.


Kate Hilton is the bestselling author of Hole in the Middle, Just Like Family and Better Luck Next Time. Before settling on fiction writing, Kate pursued careers in law, university administration, publishing, and major gift fundraising. While she rarely uses her law degree these days, she's delighted that English degree has turned out to be so useful. Kate's non-fiction writing has appeared in The National Post. Canadian Living, and The Huffington Post, on topics ranging from working motherhood to creativity reinvention. She lives in a blended family - including a husband, two sons, a stepdaughter, and a rescue dog - in Toronto.

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  1. Great review, not my usual choice of read, but this seems to be getting a lot of attention.

    1. I love these books when they include humour. It's good to have a laugh at life.

  2. Hi Veronica,

    I pretty much echo the sentiments of your previous commenter, although I have just finished a review request for a rom-com with equally laugh out loud and sad emotional moments, and thoroughly enjoyed it I might add!

    I might well be up for trying something else in the contemporary fiction marketplace, so I'll definitely bear this one in mind, especially with having the added bonus of your lovely review and recommendation.

    Thanks for sharing :)

    Yvonne xx

    1. Kate Hilton pulls the humour element off well. It's not over the top.