May 5, 2021
Genre: Women’s fiction
Release date: May 1, 2021
Rated: Bookmark it! / 4 stars
Two women go on a road trip together at the request of their mutual best friend. Despite not speaking for years, the women force themselves to work together for their friend’s sake. Along the way, they run into D-list celebrities, meet new pets, and old memories. Author Ann Garvin returns with her best work yet in the touching, well-rounded novel I Thought You Said This Would Work.
Samantha Arias would do anything for her friend, Katie. Absolutely anything. The two have survived life challenges together—the death of Sam’s husband; Katie’s infertility and divorce. Sam stood by Katie through her first cancer diagnosis and treatment; Katie made sure Sam remembered to eat when she was newly widowed and a new mother all at the same time.
The one problem the two haven’t cracked is what happened with their other best friend, Holly. Well, former best friend, for Sam at least. Inseparable in college, the three balanced one another like a tripod. When graduation came and went, though, so did Holly. Sam knows Holly was mad at her about something, but she has no idea what.
Katie has stayed in touch with both friends independently, and she’s tried broaching the topic with Holly. In typical Holly fashion, she cut off Katie’s attempts. Sam agonizes over the loss of her friend, but she can’t do much about it.
Until now. Katie’s cancer is back, and she needs everything good in her life from the first time she fought the disease. That includes her dog, Peanut, a Great Pyrenees that her ex-husband, Tom, took to California when they divorced. After Sam, Peanut was Katie’s closest companion. It might seem silly to non-pet people like Holly, but Katie can’t get through this latest round of cancer without Peanut.
Sam volunteers to bring Peanut home, but Peanut’s size and his diabetes make it impossible to fly him back. The only option is to drive. In fact, back when Katie and Tom were together, they’d bought a camper to drive Peanut around. It would be ideal if someone could bring back the camper with Peanut in it.
Holly points out that Sam won’t be able to make the trip. Sam suffers from a sleep disorder that forces her to nap at the most inconvenient times; there’s no way, Holly says, that Sam will survive a trip from California back to their native Wisconsin—about 2000 miles—all by herself while also managing Peanut’s condition.
Holly may be right, but for Sam not helping Katie isn’t an option. When Katie begs her to take Holly with her—Holly’s driving Katie and her hospital healthcare team nuts—Sam knows there’s no other way to do this. Because it’s for Katie, she agrees.
On the way to California, Sam meets minor celebrity Summer. Before anyone knows how, Summer invites herself along for the road trip. Between an unexpected detour to Utah, Summer insisting that Sam get her aura checked out, and Holly’s outright hostility toward Sam, the entire trip seems doomed. Yet along the way, Sam discovers things about herself that were hidden below the surface. She also figures out that getting back to a good place with Holly means getting back to a good place with herself first.
Author Ann Garvin’s strengths in writing are obvious from the opening pages of the book. Sam’s compassion and deep love for Katie are at odds with her confusion about what happened with Holly. Garvin doesn’t shy away from conflicted feelings. Sam wants Holly back in her life, but she also feels like Holly should have trusted their friendship enough to tell her.
Garvin makes what could be characterized as an off-the-wall premise feel organic. Early on, Summer becomes the mouthpiece for Sam’s hidden feelings. Readers will cheer her on, even as they urge Sam to find her own voice.
If the book can be faulted anywhere, it’s in Holly’s willfulness to stay blind to Sam’s friendship. While time and physical distance make it easy to hold onto grudges, Holly continues to do so when she, Sam, and Summer are together. At some point, members of the target audience might feel like telling Holly to grow up already. Sam clearly wants to work things out. Holly comes across as a high school “mean girl” stuck in an adult’s body. Her change in character, then, isn’t quite as turnkey as the rest of the novel.
Overall, the book is funny and sweet without being saccharine. Fans of road trip books and stories about friendships will definitely enjoy this one. I recommend readers Bookmark I Thought You Said This Would Work.