I picked up The Do-Over because my home state of North Carolina is the primary setting, and I had not read Bethany Turner’s work before. Slowly, I was drawn into a sweet rom-com with a career-focused heroine, personal issues I could relate to and a life that makes a major U-turn.
McKenna Keaton is the middle of three sisters, born and raised in Durham, NC. When the family moves to New York City to give McKenna’s mother her chance on Broadway, McKenna grows to love everything about the city. She is devastated when her mother becomes pregnant and the family moves back to Durham and blames Taylor, the baby sister, for ruining her perfect life. After undergraduate work at Princeton, McKenna returns to her beloved city to study law at NYU then moves up quickly in the law firm of Wallis, Monroe and Burkhead. Now she is poised to be offered a partnership. Her home, her career, and her life are lining up perfectly. Until she walks into the meeting she believes is going to confirm the partnership.
Instead, however the partners share evidence that McKenna has misdirected over $300,000 from the firm, and while the investigation proceeds, she is put on unpaid administrative leave to wait for the results. In minutes, possible professional ruin stop McKenna’s life ambitions in their tracks. Convinced she will be cleared of all charges, and now forced to save as much money as possible, she sublets her apartment and travels back to Durham to participate in baby sister Taylor’s wedding.
McKenna is gathered into the arms of a family excited to see her after nearly five years, and faces stories of high school days and youthful antics as well as relaxing in the support of her elder sister Erica and Erica’s husband Jared. McKenna has sworn the couple to secrecy about her job situation and determines to keep the professional accusations from the rest of the family.
During the family events and preparation for the wedding, Jared is invited by Hank Blume to a fund-raising viewing of Blume’s new film. McKenna, a fan of this award-winning producer of documentaries, asks where Jared met the man. Jared laughs in astonishment. Doesn’t she know? Hank is Henry Blumenthal, the nerdy guy they both hung out with in high school. To avoid the teasing that erupts around her for being clueless, she begs Jared to take her with him to the party. Not long after an awkward meeting with Hank/Henry, and after a forty-seven-minute dinner at a nearby restaurant, McKenna Keaton, who avoids relationships like the plague, is broadsided. She has a major crush on a man.
The Do-Over takes the reader along with McKenna on her journey, quite literally, since the author writes in deep first person perspective. McKenna’s thoughts, experiences, and emotions are the way we live with her through these critical weeks in her life. She is given the chance to rethink almost everything she believes and to change directions, and we’re along for the funny, insightful, heartwarming, and romantic ride.
Although published by a traditional Christian publisher, I would characterize this book as a sweet romance with a strong inspirational theme – to live a full life, we must be open not only to career success but also to success in matters of the heart. Without that balance, we have left behind an essential part of life’s experience. The entire book encompasses that lesson and does a wonderful job showing it through daily life.
Two things gave me pause – the pacing and the setting. The unrelenting focus on McKenna’s inner mindscape is not always balanced with movement in the story. The author writes at an almost ‘thour-by-hour’ pace, reminiscent of the TV show, 24, without the urgent suspense, but with plenty of humor. I often put the book down, as I would a weekly TV series, satisfied with the episode just past, but not prepared to binge. As a resident of Durham, I was disappointed with how the author handles the setting. By using deep perspective and the focus on the heroine’s inner state, the reader sees little of the surroundings. As described, Durham could be any city, and this story could have taken place in any urban setting.
Nonetheless, The Do-Over provides an enjoyable story of how one focused lawyer is thrown onto an unexpected path, only to find that offered path is giving her a glimpse of life at its fullest. Solid, emotional writing full of fun and heart make The Do-Over the perfect excuse for finding a comfy chair and settling in.