The Ten Best Days of My Life
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NOTE: We recognize that reading is a personal experience, and we hope that the author interview and questions below will provide a springboard to provoke a lively discussion.
Twenty-nine-year-old Alexandra Dorenfield suddenly finds herself in heaven after an unfortunate encounter with a MINI Cooper. The seventh—and highest—level of heaven to be exact. Her dog, Peaches, is with her; she is reunited with her beloved grandparents; she has the wardrobe of a movie star; and she lives in the house of her dreams next door to a handsome guy. This is heaven!
But there’s a catch. Alex must prove she led a fulfilling existence by writing an essay on the ten best days of her life—or she will be demoted to a lower level of heaven, where the clothes are last year’s styles, the men aren’t quite as handsome, and, worst of all, Peaches and her family won’t be nearby. Witty and inspiring, this divine debut novel dares to ask a material girl—and the rest of us—what makes life precious.
Adena Halpern wrote a popular series of essays titled “The Haute Life” for the back page of Marie Claire magazine, which reaches 3.1 million readers monthly. She is a contributing writer for Daily Variety and has written for The New York Times. Adena earned her bachelor of fine arts degree in dramatic writing from New York University and a master of fine arts degree in screenwriting from The American Film Institute.
Q. Writers write what they know. How much of Alex is in you?
Since my first book was a memoir, I set out to create a character that was most unlike me for my second book. Sure, I’d love to have an amazing wardrobe and eat whatever I want and never gain weight, but that’s pretty much all that Alex and I have in common. You’d have to ask my parents, but I think they’d say I was a pretty good kid. I certainly never burned down a hotel room or maxed credit cards. The only thing I did take directly from real life was the fact that there really was an uncle Morris Salis, who died when I was twelve. Like his character, he never married; he smoked cigars and was like a Santa Claus to my mother and me. I loved him very much. Since he had no children, I thought he deserved a legacy. Now he has one.
Q. Do you believe in an afterlife?
I would like to think there is an afterlife. I’ve had a manic fear of death for as long as I can remember. The idea of Seventh Heaven is something I dreamed up a long time ago to make myself feel better when I start thinking about my own death or loved ones who have died.
Q. How did you come up with the idea for The Ten Best Days of My Life?
I was thinking about new ideas for a book and my husband asked me what the ten best days of my life were. I thought about that for a second and then thought, What if a character told her ten best days after she died? It was one of those things that hit me like a lightning bolt. I could talk about my image of heaven and create a world where someone would have to look back and talk about her life.
Q. We know Alex’s version of Seventh Heaven. What’s yours?
I want to be 5'6?! I’m only five feet tall and I hate my height. I know I shouldn’t, but I do. In my version of Seventh Heaven, I’m 5'6?. Also, I lost a favorite ring of mine years ago and I want it back. When I arrive at my home in Seventh Heaven (many, many years from now) I hope that ring is in my jewelry box.
Q. Why did you choose to make Alex twenty-nine years old?
I think twenty-nine is a very interesting age. It’s my belief that it’s the last year of being considered a kid. At thirty, you sit at the adult table. It’s those years between your teens through twenty-nine when I believe you should go nuts, try everything, make mistakes, and learn lessons. By the age of thirty you should have a sense of who you are and what you want out of life. I think Alex was just getting to that point, but just didn’t know it yet.
Q. Okay, what were the ten best days of your life?
The short answer to that is every day I spend with my husband.
- What represents a best day? Is it a moment in that day or the whole day itself? In your opinion, is it still a best day if it led to bad consequences afterward?
- If you believe in heaven and/or an afterlife, how do you envision it? Is your conception of heaven based on a particular religious belief?
- Did Adam really just arrive in Seventh Heaven or is he one of the “perks” of living in Seventh Heaven?
- How would your Seventh Heaven compare to Alex’s? What would be in your Fourth Heaven?
- Now that you know the ins and outs of Alex’s life, do you believe that she would have gone on to lead a fulfilling life on earth? In your opinion, what constitutes a fulfilling life?
- When writing her letter to the “powers that be,” Alex states, “I was nowhere near perfect (but then again, let’s face the facts: isn’t that what the teenage years to the end of your twenties is all about?)” Do you agree that it takes to the beginning of your thirties to figure out who you are?
- A significant part of The Ten Best Days of My Life deals with female relationships. Alex states, “I think that if you have one real Friend, you don't need any backup.” Do you agree?
- Discuss Alex’s relationship with her parents. Since the story is from Alex’s point of view, do you think her parents would view their relationship differently? By the end of the book, do you think they would say they spoiled Alex? Were they bad parents?
- Why do you think Alex had to write the essay? Was it because “the powers that be” needed to know whether she deserved to be there, or did they know it and need her to realize it by writing the essay?