Do you want to read something funny? Let's say, a novel set at a divorce ranch in Reno in the 1930s? A book with memorably eccentric characters, sparkling dialogue, a satisfying plot twist, and some romance and sex? A feel-good literary comedy/western? Here it is, then, the book you've been looking for: Julia Claiborne Johnson's Better Luck Next Time.--Julie Schumacher, author of Dear Committee Members and The Shakespeare Requirement
The eagerly anticipated second novel from the bestselling author of Be Frank with Me, a charming story of endings, new beginnings, and the complexities and complications of friendship and love, set in late 1930s Reno.
It's 1938 and women seeking a quick, no-questions split from their husbands head to the "divorce capital of the world," Reno, Nevada. There's one catch: they have to wait six-weeks to become "residents." Many of these wealthy, soon-to-be divorcees flock to the Flying Leap, a dude ranch that caters to their every need.
Twenty-four-year-old Ward spent one year at Yale before his family lost everything in the Great Depression; now he's earning an honest living as a ranch hand at the Flying Leap. Admired for his dashing good looks--"Cary Grant in cowboy boots"--Ward thinks he's got the Flying Leap's clients all figured out. But two new guests are about to upend everything he thinks he knows: Nina, a St Louis heiress and amateur pilot back for her third divorce, and Emily, whose bravest moment in life was leaving her cheating husband back in San Francisco and driving herself to Reno.
A novel about divorce, marriage, and everything that comes in between (money, class, ambition, and opportunity), Better Luck Next Time is a hilarious yet poignant examination of the ways friendship can save us, love can destroy us, and the family we create can be stronger than the family we come from.
- ISBN-13: 9780062916365
- ISBN-10: 006291636X
- Publisher: Mariner Books
- Publish Date: January 2021
- Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.8 x 1.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.95 pounds
- Page Count: 288
Better Luck Next Time
Back in the 1930s, Dr. Howard Stovall Bennett III, then known as “Ward,” was the handsome hired hand at a Reno ranch that helped women establish Nevada state citizenship to get quickie divorces. A Yale dropout, Ward got the job after his wealthy Southern family lost everything in the Great Depression. In the wonderful, sweet Better Luck Next Time, a much older Ward recounts his time at the Flying Leap Dude Ranch to an unknown listener, whose identity is revealed at the end of the book.
Ward’s job is equal parts ranch hand, driver, waiter and listening ear to women biding their time until a judge will grant them a divorce. He spends hours sitting outside attorneys’ offices, listening to the women tell their stories. “It was like listening to a celestial radio that only picked up the saddest soap operas,” he says, “its dial twisted slowly by the universe across the whole unhappy bandwidth without settling anywhere for long.”
The trouble starts when Nina comes to the Flying Leap. A wealthy heiress heading for her third divorce, Nina takes the heartbroken Emily, who has fled a serial cheater in San Francisco, under her wing. Soon Nina and Emily are embarking on all sorts of liquor- and grief-fueled adventures and roping Ward in to their fun. When Ward realizes he’s falling in love with Emily, he assumes his days at the Flying Leap are numbered.
A longtime magazine writer, Julia Claiborne Johnson follows up her hilarious first book, Be Frank With Me, with this more serious—but still witty and charming—offering. She paints a vivid picture of a hot, dry Reno summer during which women wait to see whether their luck has run out or is just beginning. Ward is a thoughtful narrator, telling his story with the mix of joy and melancholy that comes with being elderly. “When you get to be my age,” he muses, “things that happened fifty years ago start seeming more real to you than what happened yesterday.” Indeed, this is a story that will stay with you for a long time.