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Summary

"Do you want to read something funny? Let's say, a novel set at a divorce ranch in Reno in the 1930s? A book with memorably eccentric characters, sparkling dialogue, a satisfying plot twist, and some romance and sex? A feel-good literary comedy/western? Here it is, then, the book you've been looking for: Julia Claiborne Johnson's Better Luck Next Time."Julie Schumacher, author of Dear Committee Members and The Shakespeare Requirement

The long anticipated second novel from the bestselling author of Be Frank with Me, a charming story of endings, new beginnings, and the complexities and complications of friendship and love, set in late 1930s Reno.

It's 1938 and women seeking a quick, no-questions split from their husbands head to the "divorce capital of the world," Reno, Nevada. There's one catch: they have to wait six weeks to become "residents." Many of these wealthy, soon-to-be divorcees flock to the Flying Leap, a dude ranch that caters to their every need. 

Twenty-four-year-old Ward spent one year at Yale before his family lost everything in the Great Depression; now he's earning an honest living as a ranch hand at the Flying Leap. Admired for his dashing good looks—"Cary Grant in cowboy boots"—Ward thinks he's got the Flying Leap's clients all figured out. But two new guests are about to upend everything he thinks he knows: Nina, a St. Louis heiress and amateur pilot back for her third divorce, and Emily, whose bravest moment in life was leaving her cheating husband back in San Francisco and driving herself to Reno.

A novel about divorce, marriage, and everything that comes in between (money, class, ambition, and opportunity), Better Luck Next Time is a hilarious yet poignant examination of the ways friendship can save us, love can destroy us, and the family we create can be stronger than the family we come from.

©2021 Julia Claiborne Johnson (P)2021 HarperCollins Publishers

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Profile Image for Naunie
  • Naunie
  • 17-02-22

The Author and Narrator Nailed it!

I am a resident of Reno… My mom came here in the 1960s for a divorce. And we stayed. It was a magical place in those days. The author and the narrator nailed it. There were no detectable errors in old Reno history except that we don’t have roadrunners here. Southern Nevada is the place for those. Reno is too cold in the winter and not hot enough in the summer. We are at elevation 4500 and it’s not typically as hot in the summer as the story portrays. But all in all and it was a great story. I enjoyed every detail immensely.
One last comment - in the after notes, the reviewer mispronounced the name of the state of Nevada over and over again. We residents hate that faux pas. It is not Neh-vah-duh. It is Neh-vad-uh. If you’re going to presume to be an expert on the background of this book, do your homework. You are not pronouncing a Spanish word in this context… you are pronouncing our state’s name. It’s akin to the pronunciation of the nearby town of Verdi. It’s not pronounced like the composer’s name. It’s vur-dye. Leave it to the old west!

8 people found this helpful

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  • juju
  • 19-04-21

Adore this wonderful story!

Knowing absolutely nothing of divorce ranches, (who knew?) I loved being transported back in time through the telling of this precious story of love, loss, and the meaning of true friendships. Johnson's story reverberated with me on so many levels...as a child of divorce, the daughter of a "cowboy wanna be", and as a woman who treasures friends who stick by you through thick and thin. David Aaron Baker, the narrator in the audio book, performs each voice as if each character lives in his bones, and I found myself wanting to curl up next to Ward with a coffee and quilt as he shared his heart, his humor, and his ability to accept life as it plays out with humor and grace. Julia Claiborne Johnson strikes chord after chord with her characters. Her gift of timing, spot-on clever and precise expressions, and dialogue makes you feel like a lucky fly on the wall in the narrator's presence. Johnson's gift of storytelling, her ability to create characters with depth and originality, and her timing kept me turning pages and forgetting my to-do list for the day. I adore every minute I get to wallow in her stories!!

7 people found this helpful

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  • ROJ
  • 16-03-21

Delightful Storytelling

A charming narrator, unique narrative, spunky characters, sweet ending, a very enjoyable listen while taking a walk, doing the dishes or daydreaming.

7 people found this helpful

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  • C. Rosser
  • 31-03-22

nice enough comedy turns into a 3 hanky story

The first half was fun. I started listening at 1.5x speed by chapter 14. Even then I thought the last chapters could have been compressed. As it was they kind of dragged to the predictable ending.

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  • SB
  • 28-11-21

Boring and annoying

This story is terribly boring. There is not much of a plot and very little happens. The soon-to-be divorcees Nina and Emily are two of the most annoying fictional characters I have come across in quite some time. I wanted to slap both of them. There is nothing but inane conversations and stupid situations. I think the author was going for hilarious hi jinx, but failed spectacularly. This is a dud. Spend your time and money elsewhere.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 20-07-21

This is just what you need right now

The author came to speak (on a webinar) at our local library and she was as delightful as her book. The characters welcome you into this engaging, clever and historically fascinating story and stay with you long after you’ve finished. The narrator is perfectly suited and made the experience even better.

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  • Anonymous
  • 04-12-21

Story for Understanding People

Good story with characters who had all too human traits in an interesting setting. Just good listening to a slower paced novel which encompassed the flaws and goodness of people.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Mena
  • 16-04-21

A thoroughly delightful read!

I really enjoyed this book! It was a great story with interesting, vibrant characters, laugh out loud lines, and insights into the 1930s. The performance was so well done, I felt like I was right there.

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  • Susan P
  • 10-05-22

An absolutely wonderful tale!

An absolutely wonderful tale!

Beautifully written story and marvelous narrative. Keeps you engaged from the very beginning in an unusual and absorbing setting. I felt as if I knew all of the characters and was captured from beginning to end

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  • Donna Deal
  • 14-04-22

A Promising premise but..

The notion behind this book grabbed me: a narration of a Divorce Dude Ranch cowboy?
I love it! The opening chapters had me going: well done! The narrator was terrific, and
really invited the listener in. The characters had moxie, humor and pathos.. until the rich women
moved in. I emotionally checked out as the story bogged down into the Nina/Emily/Portia drama..
i had no sympathy for the rich ladies who demanded constant attention... glad to see them go, but
yes, there was a 'coda' to the story... didn't ring true to me. But I adored the reader and the novels
narrator who survived the shenanigans, and went on to have a good life.