1984. Bessie is a confident sixteen-year-old girl with the world at her feet, dreaming of what life will bring and what she’ll bring to this life. Then everything comes crashing down. Her bright and trusting smile is lost, banished by shame—and a secret she’ll carry with her for the rest of her life.
2021. The last thirty-seven years have not been easy for Bess. At fifty-three she is visibly weary, and her marriage to Mario is in tatters. Watching her son in newlywed bliss—the hope, the trust, the joy—Bess knows it is time to face her own demons, and try to save her relationship. But she’ll have to throw off the burden of shame if she is to honour that sixteen-year-old girl whose dreams lie frozen in time.
Can Bess face her past, finally come clean to Mario, and claim the love she has longed to fully experience all these years?
I seem to be in the minority here - there are so many raving reviews for Waiting to Begin, but the protagonist spoiled the story for me, and I didn't enjoy it at all.
This story is told in two timelines, both taking place on Bessie's birthday. All you really need to know, though, is that Bessie is a massive narcissist.
It's 1984, Bessie is turning sixteen, and she's excited to find out how she did in her school exams and to make the boy she's secretly been having sex with her actual boyfriend. Of course, everything crumbles and falls apart (otherwise, this book wouldn't exist), but all of the things that happen are Bessie's fault or the direct consequence of her own actions, and she just blames everyone around her. But sure, she's only just turned sixteen - no one's expecting her to be a mature adult, even if she is making very adult choices for her life.
In 2021, the only thing that's changed is Bessie is married with two adult children; she is still the vain, selfish prick she was at sixteen. She only cares about her presents and how many people post a public birthday greeting on her social media. She's very aware that she hasn't been the best wife for many years (and has actually been keeping a secret from her husband and the rest of her family for most of her life) but only cares that he's not the best husband despite her years of neglect. But don't worry, she'll almost cheat on him and decide to change her base personality in an afternoon because gasp, she loves him! But wait, he doesn't want to bow down to her and accept she's going to turn into a different person overnight?! How rude! But she's going to tell him her deep, dark secret that she should have told him decades ago! That will fix everything! What a crock of shit.
There's a bit of an emotional payoff if you actually make it through the whole book, but it's not worth dealing with Bessie's toxic personality.