*If you are new here, WELCOME! For Best Years of Your Life, I provide your book club with a brief summary, food ideas and a recipe, and discussion questions in that order!
With short chapters and likable characters who make devastating choices, you’ll find yourself flying through Jen Craven’s first contemporary novel, Best Years of Your Life.
Best Years of Your Life follows a family—two professor moms and their daughter—as they navigate the most difficult year of their lives, professionally and personally.
As someone who worked for a university for over ten years, I found Craven captured campus life perfectly. From tenure politics to research to student-faculty relationships, everything was spot on.
If you’ve worked in a campus setting or lived in a college town, you’ll find this novel interesting for that alone.
But Best Years of Your Life is much more than that. A heartbreaking story about a marriage gone stale, a too-soon Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and a young girl desperate for approval, the characters in this book are complex and complicated.
I found the decisions the characters made kept me turning pages quickly and desperately.
In the end, Craven’s novel rings true-to-life. She doesn’t over-promise a happily-ever after, but there is definitely catharsis and I appreciated the way she carefully let the reader go.
Book clubs will have no shortage of conversation topics with Best Years of Your Life. It’s a book I know I’ll be thinking of for a while.
Best Years of Your Life is a novel chosen through Book Club Bites’ collaboration with The Best of Women’s Fiction podcast. Check out the fabulous podcast where Jen Craven discusses writing the book and more: HERE.
The Best of Women’s Fiction co-host, Ashley Hasty, also interviewed Craven. Want fun facts to share with your book club? Check those out HERE.
Jen Craven was kind enough to provide a recipe to feature here on Book Club Bites. Her Pumpkin Cookies are soft, full of flavor, and the perfect fall treat!
I’ve provided book club questions and delicious food ideas for Best Years of Your Life and Jen Craven’s special recipe is below for you! So if you are looking for book club ideas and more, keep reading!
Check out these fun bookish gadgets…
Here’s a brief summary of Best Years of Your Life:
From the Publisher: “Cheaters don’t fall far from the tree.
ONE FAMILY. THREE WOMEN. BIG SECRETS.
Married college professors Christine and Joss thought they had it all: jobs they love, a beloved daughter, and most of all, each other—that is, until Joss’s research pulls her further and further away, and strange bouts of forgetfulness put a wedge between them. Lonely and seeking the emotional connection she once shared with her wife, Christine forms a friendship with a student that quickly walks the line of right and wrong.
Eighteen-year-old Abbie is an outcast desperate to fit in. When the most popular girl on campus suddenly befriends her, Abbie can’t believe her luck. But the friendship comes with strings attached—stealing exams from her mom’s computer for the in-crowd.
Soon, both mom and daughter are in deep with their deepest desires on the line. When their secret lives collide, their indiscretions culminate in a catastrophe no one saw coming.
With an eye for suspense perfectly blended with the tender mystery of human connection, BEST YEARS OF YOUR LIFE explores the consequences of bad decisions and the tension between desire and dignity.”
For Best Years of Your Life Food Ideas:
With three different points of view and such a quick-paced novel, there wasn’t much time for food in the book. However, there are a few specific mentions, which I’ll share below.
If none of these suits you, consider asking everyone in the book club to bring a dish from their college days. Whether its something famous from their college town/campus or a dish they ate all the time in college or an ”invention” dish from the days when ramen and some frozen veggies made a meal.
Here are a few of the food ideas from the pages of Best Years of Your Life:
- Caesar salad plus a buttery roll and cake when Joss forgets the birthday dinner
- Joss burns the scrambled eggs
- Kerry brings a lasagna after the accident.
- Christine makes chicken piccata while helping Joss with retirement paperwork
Whatever you decide, be sure to include Jen Craven’s pumpkin cookies!.
If you’ve been looking for the perfect pumpkin cookie recipe, you’ve found it. Soft as cake with just enough texture to be called a cookie, these are addictive.
The sweet icing on top balances out the warm spices in the cookie making them even more addictive.
Trust me when I say you’ll make these for your book club and then again for your family!
Whether you choose something from this list or try Jen Craven’s recipe, I hope these food ideas will get your creative juices flowing to host your book club for Best Years of Your Life!
A few tips on cooking Pumpkin Cookies with Icing:
Here are a few tips to help make your cookie experience the best it can be!
1) No need to spray your pan (as long as it has some non-stick coating). If you use spray, the cookies will spread too much instead of forming a perfect cookie shape.
2) For the icing, add as much powdered sugar as needed to make a semi-glaze icing. This icing will never be as thick as buttercream, but you want it thicker than donut glaze. Think donut icing.
3) Store in an airtight container. If you are making ahead of time, I recommend baking the cookies ahead of time, but waiting to ice until the day of your get together. The icing tends to crack over time.
Be sure to use these tips on this fabulous recipe when you host your book club for Best Years of Your Life!
Easy Pumpkin Cookies with Icing:
Easy Pumpkin Cookies
- 1 cup pure pumpkin
- 1 cup butter flavored crisco
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 – 3/4 box confectioner’s sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
- 2 tbs. milk
- orange food coloring can mix yellow and red to get orange shade
For the Cookies:
- In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients, then add wet ingredients until thoroughly blended.
- Drop spoonfulls of the batter onto baking sheet, 2 inches apart.
- Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes (depending on size).
For the Icing:
- Mix together confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, milk, and food coloring to form icing.
- If it’s too dry, add more milk. If it’s too wet, add more powdered sugar.
- Spread onto cooled cookies and allow icing to harden.
More Fun from Jen Craven:
Please insert a short description of your recipe and why it relates to your novel. Include any information you think readers would enjoy!
Back to school ushers in the fall season, which brings to mind all things pumpkin! These cookies are perfect for September all the way through Thanksgiving (or the fall semester, as my book would call it!).
Good food and a good book go hand-in-hand. What is your favorite food to enjoy while reading?
Oh, I’m such a snacker, so you’ll probably find me munching on Goldfish or pretzels or something of that nature. In the evening, I love a good piece of dark chocolate and a glass of wine.
Best Years of Your Life Book Club Questions:
*WARNING: May contain spoilers!
These book club questions were kindly provided by the author and/or publisher. Please use only for your book club and do not reproduce them.
- Best Years of your Life deals tackles moral dilemmas where ethics come into play. Do you feel that people are inherently good or bad? Or is it possible for good people to make poor decisions?
- “Coming-of-age” is a genre that typically revolves around young characters entering adulthood, yet both Christine and Joss both go through transformations in their fifties. Do you think it’s possible for people to experience coming-of-age situations at any point in their life?
- Christine, Joss and Abbie all must grapple with the fallout of their choices. Do you think there’s ever an instance with forgiveness is not warranted?
- Temptation is a strong theme throughout the book. When it comes to positions of power, such as a professor for example, who is more responsible?
- Both moms and daughter struggle with identity—both accepting who they are and who they’re going to become. How do you define identity? And what significance does it have on your own life?
Find Jen Craven:
Jen can be found at these places online!
Have you read Best Years of Your Life? What did you think? Did it satisfy you or were you left wishing for more? What are some similar books you’ve read?
Until next time, Happy Reading!
Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links. In the event of a sale, I will be awarded a small commission (at no extra cost to you or the featured book’s author). All opinions are 100% mine and every book, unless otherwise noted, is handpicked by me to be featured on the site.
Bookish gifts for you or your reader friends!