A Very Good Life

Dana McGarry Novel Book 1

Fiction - Womens
292 Pages
Reviewed on 11/05/2015
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Marta Tandori for Readers' Favorite

A Very Good Life by Lynn Steward chronicles a tumultuous period in twenty-nine-year-old Dana McGarry’s life that begins the day after Thanksgiving, in November, 1974. Dana’s a bright and well-liked public relations junior executive at B. Altman, a high-end department store in Manhattan. She’s been married for the past eight years to Brett McGarry, an ambitious corporate litigator with a venerable Wall Street firm, who is on a fast track to partnership. Dana and Brett have a lovely apartment on Park Avenue and, by all accounts, have a wonderful marriage and a very good life. However, things aren’t exactly as they seem. Dana is facing stiff opposition from some of her superiors at work regarding a teen makeup section she’s keen on establishing, and things at home with her and Brett are becoming more and more distant as her husband appears to have a single-minded focus on his work and his commitment to becoming partner.

The author, Lynn Steward, has an effective way with words and is able to create evocative images without a superfluous use of adjectives. This is especially evident in the first chapter of the book where the author creates a setting that is worthy of a Currier and Ives picture postcard. The department store window decked out for Christmas with sugar plum fairies, the falling snow that gently settles on the sidewalks, the hustle and bustle as everyone rushes by with parcels in hand, the air of excitement; all of this is practically tangible and this visceral awareness is a constant throughout the book, making it a feast for the reader’s senses.

The early seventies of the last century was a particularly revolutionary time for women and this is nicely captured by Steward in the subtle nuances throughout A Very Good Life. Dana is the product of a stable, loving family, and who is moving away from the ‘norm’ of the stay-at-home wife by trying to balance both a career and her marriage. Janice, her husband’s colleague at work, is a free-spirited feminist who’s not only ballsy and a talented litigator, but thinks nothing of having a casual affair in order to satisfy her own needs. Dana’s gay bestie, Andrew, her radical bra-burning co-worker, and references to some legendary women icons of the day like Estee Lauder and Diana Vreeland all serve to highlight the era. However, if one were to remove the well-heeled trappings of Dana’s upper class existence, there would remain a young woman who’s on a journey of discovery – a relevant issue for women of any era. A Very Good Life is a very good read and a slice of Americana all rolled into one.