The Next Thing On My List by Jill Smolinski
June Parker’s life is meandering along until a freak car accident leaves Marissa, her 24-year-old passenger, dead and June wracked with guilt. June discovers a list Marissa had been keeping of 25 things she wanted to do by the time she turned 25. After a run-in with Marissa’s brother, June resolves to complete the list. Kissing a total stranger and throwing away her scale prove far easier than pitching an idea at work or changing someone’s life. But June approaches the list with aplomb, daring to speak up about being passed over for a manager position, and becoming a Big Sister to a quiet, studious Latina teen named DeeDee. But when June uncovers a secret of DeeDee’s, she realizes changing someone else’s life might involve changing her own as well.
When I started reading The Next Thing On My List, I took it for another book about completing your bucket list- you know, the list of things you want to accomplish before you turn a certain age, or just things you want to do in your life. Before reading this book, the reason people even MADE bucket lists, knowing they wouldn’t accomplish all the things on it, boggled my mind. Now I think I’ve figured out why (more on this later)…
“People are living too much, or too little, and I wondered if anyone out there is living the right amount.”~ June
June, the book’s main character, offers 24-year-old Melissa a ride home one evening after a meeting. The girls are involved in a tragic car accident leaving Melissa killed. June finds Melissa’s “20 before 25”- her list of things she wants to accomplish before her 25th birthday and vows to complete the list in Melissa’s honor. June takes us into her world with her hijinks along the way. The book made me laugh out loud, especially when June accomplishes #7 and has to go bra-less to the office for an entire day!
Although the majority of the population makes New Year’s Resolutions and bucket lists, I’d bet only a VERY small percentage of folks actually follow through in completing those. As the cliché says, it’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey, sure. Like many of us, June is motivated within herself and through Melissa’s memory to achieve her goal. She arrives at that destination and still wants more. I’m sure you can relate. I know I love nothing more than completing a project, but I look forward to the next one with excitement.
The more June learned about Melissa along the path of completing her list, the more she ended up learning about herself. After completing Melissa’s list, June makes a list of her own. She found it strangely comforting. She craved having a compass of sorts; something to give her life purpose, direction. I find list making a cathartic practice and a great way to manage my time. It feels SO good to scratch things off my list. But there are many things that are so big and such works in progress, to put them on a list would be diminutive and unfair to their grandeur.
This book directs the reader beyond the page and asks us to look a step further. I love books that make me re-evaluate standard ideologies to find purpose, direction and motivation within ourselves. I’m a highly effective and motivated person. Why? It makes me happy, simple as that! I don’t want to sloth around; it’s boring! Who wants to be around Eyeore all day?
Sure, it’s satisfying to do things on your list. We’re all works in progress, but why not focus more on cultivating rewarding relationships. Do good things just for the sake of being good-hearted rather than because a list dictates you must perform a random act of kindness. This book would make excellent beach or travel reading!
PS- thanks Melissa/Jane for the Taco Soup recipe. It was delish!
23 down, 29 to go!
In progress- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks