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Reviews

"It’s 1984, and 20-year-old Jessica Addentro dreams of studying art in London. However, for this summer, she’ll have to settle for waitressing in New Hope, Pennsylvania, an artsy village on the Delaware River.

...  Mattaboni’s prose is rich with sharp dialogue, musical references, and painterly details: 'I’m a half-formed mosaic, dancing around in a world full of indecision and New Wave anarchy and the mystery terror of AIDS,' says Jess, at one point ... the author has a talent for enlivening even minor characters with memorable personalities, and she manages to capture the very real magic of small bohemian towns. Overall, it’s as much a nostalgia trip as it is a bildungsroman, but the reader won’t have to have personally lived through the ’80s to appreciate this ebullient and engaging story of youthful longing and independence.


An enjoyable, starry-eyed coming-of-age tale."

What the Press Is Saying ...
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The novel’s plot plays-out against a vibrant background of 1980's new wave music and art, with a tone that combines a much-needed pop-culture sensibility and snarky wit with an intelligent, literary edge. In portraying New Hope of the 1980s, it embodies the turmoil and flippant energy of David Byrne’s new wave anthem "Once in a Lifetime," which the novel is named after.

-- New York Weekly

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A smart and entertaining read, the writing shines with engaging imagery and insights about the nature of creativity. The book will hold special appeal to those who remember the fanfare and musical flair of this decade.

However, Mattaboni stays true to her own solid feminist roots, considering the piece is being billed as a romantic comedy that’s not all about the guy. It rather keeps the emphasis on a set of core female relationships that make this story stand up and come to life. However imperfect the young women in this novel are, and as much as they falter in trying to push their lives forward, they are staggeringly devoted to supporting one another.

-- Los Angeles Wire

"We follow this headstrong protagonist and her friends as they try to balance their love lives and budding careers in an era when women were finally told they could 'have it all.' The restaurant and its eccentric but lovable crew become the girls’ manic if dysfunctional new home for the summer. They deal with everything from Jess’s fling with a hot daredevil guitarist, to drag shows, punk concerts, revenge sex, cheating waiters, and a Jeep that lands in the river on a dare... An astute storyteller with a literary flair, Suzanne Mattaboni’s debut is a worthy addition to her growing body of work. 

--Entertainment Monthly News

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Suzanne Mattaboni’s novel Once in a Lifetime harkens back to the early 1980s, before cell phones were commonplace and calling home cost more than the average college student could afford. Jess and her friends move into a dumpy apartment in New Hope, PA, and spend hours on their feet, slinging gourmet entrees to tourists. But sore feet don’t stop them from hitting the cool clubs and dancing to a playlist that will trigger memories for anyone who grew up in that decade. 

 

The beauty of Once in a Lifetime is it is a reminder of a time when ... growing up involved making decisions without parental calls, texts, and emails. Artist Jess is working to save money to start her “real world,” a study abroad program in London. But a summer of adventure, choices, and decisions elicit consequences, and she quickly learns that getting to the “real world” involves more than money.  Ms. Mattaboni’s beautifully written novel is a tribute to life during a period many of us remember longingly.  

 

--Susan Sofayov, award-winning author of Defective and Jerusalem Stone. 

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Mattaboni’s debut is the story of one epic summer in 1984, when Philadelphia artist, server, and punk-rock striver Jess bunks up with her closest friends ... The girls are wholly committed to the punk life and each other while facing the obstacles of young adults living on their own–a less than respectable apartment, summer jobs, love triangles, and personal crises. Even though the friends face some heady issues, Mattaboni opts for keeping the subject matter mostly lighthearted, circling around the ups and downs of relationships amid subtle themes of self-discovery, all tied to an era-specific punk, new wave, and pust-punk soundtrack.
 

Mattaboni masters the complications and daily nuances of female friendship while emphasizing the women’s dreams and opportunities in a vibrant cultural moment, especially Jess’s desire to go to London and create art. Music and art rule Jess’s life. As narrator, she relishes “deep plucks of Tina Weymouth’s bass line” and how the “screen-printed lines” of a Joy Division T-shirt seem to “undulate like a mountain range” across a man’s chest. 

    --BookLife lightning bolt review