This is the final novel in the chance of a lifetime series and probably the weakest, but it’s still one of the sweetest stories I’ve read in a long while.
Though it is the third in the series and includes characters from the previous books, you don’t HAVE to read them in order. If the characters in this novel appeal to you more than the other books, you can start with this one if you want.
Plot: a shy, chronically ill woman is trying to, with what remains of her lottery winnings after paying off the various costs and opportunity costs for her family of her illness, finally get her undergraduate degree. Her best friend’s brother is a globe trotting photojournalist with an anxiety disorder triggered by responsibility towards other people because he literally raised his sister from when he was 6 and she was a baby. He needs a project while he’s stuck in town trying to find a way to manage his anxiety and she needs help getting her last credit in photography. Shenanigans ensue.
Clayborn is exceptional at creating characters that feel real and this is no different. Even though the supporting characters get less time than previous books, they still feel like people you don’t know a lot about rather than cartoons or stereotypes just meant to fill the page or get laughs.
One part of that is that Clayborn is very compassionate towards her characters and seems to work very hard to represent them well. I’ve had chronic health problems and anxiety and representations of both felt true to life. This also means that the problems her characters deal with don’t define them.
The reason my reviews of her books are so focused on the characters is because they are so character driven. The plots are really secondary and could be replaced with any other plot without really losing much. This one focuses on photography. It’s fine. Don’t go to Clayborn for plot. But if you love sweet stories focused on personal growth, you’re going to love this. Particularly if you’re looking to get inspired for your own journeys.