Best Staged Plans

Best Staged Plans

by Claire Cook

Ginger Emas: An Advance Review of Claire Cook’s Best Staged Plans

Do you know how hard it is to smile through 238 pages? If you’ve read Claire Cook’s latest, Best Staged Plans, you know exactly what I’m talking about. From the minute the book opens with the warm but slightly snarky Sandy lamenting the time-suck of midlife moments such as searching for your reading glasses, I was hooked. I was also wondering if Cook had secretly videotaped months of my own life (and particularly the contents of my junk drawers), as she so perfectly captured this stage of life, though with a lot more humor and decorating skills than I ever hope to have!

The story centers on Sandy, a 50-something home stager (she “stages” people’s homes to make them look their best for resale). In fact, Sandy wants to be her own client – she’d love to sell the home in which she raised her (now-grown) children and move with her husband to another city, another stage of life. But just like the cobbler’s children who have no shoes, Sandy can’t seem to get her family to participate in her plans.

The result is a journey that many women in their 40s, 50s and 60s will recognize as pieces of their own paths, complete with characters you swear Cook glimpsed from your own photo albums, family reunions and neighbors. One of the qualities I liked most about Bes t Staged Plans is that Cook doesn’t try to sugarcoat the realities of getting older: the bittersweetness of becoming an empty-nester. The conflicting feelings of wanting to move on and hold on at the same time. And the jumble of emotions that comes with having loved and lived with the same man for decades and suddenly feeling as if you may not grow old together after all.

Cook’s ear for the conversations that take place with a husband, adult children, and a lifelong best friend is perfectly pitched, and more than once I found myself folding down a page to remember a particularly strong retort or moving passage that I know I’ll be saying one day soon to my own family!

While the story is entertaining, funny and poignant all at the same time, it is also extremely inspiring. (Not surprising from the author who wrote her first of eight best-sellers at age 45, working in her mommy-mobile while waiting for her daughter to finish swim practice. Ever hear of Must Love Dogs?) Best Staged Plan’s Sandy is definitely not shrinking quietly into the night. She’s courageous, self-confident and loaded with intelligence, compassion and humor – a powerful combination that reminds us that fifty really could be the new thirty. Sandy takes hold of her independence and accepts a month-long job in a city hundreds of miles away. Symbolically, this is not only a physical trip, but also a spiritual one, and like all great stories, it is more about the journey than the ultimate destination. Expect the unexpected as Cook tells it like it is: life is not a series of neatly wrapped-up endings. It’s filled with ups and downs, laughter and tears, uncertainty! and self-confidence, just the way we really live … at any stage.

Best Staged Plans releases on June 7 – just in time for your summer reading! And Claire’s throwing a contest to win a Kindle or Nook, and a whole beach bag filled with signed copies of all her books! Enter the giveaway at!.html
Rating: *****

Have you read this book, too?  Click here to submit your review.

Join Our Email List
For Email Marketing you can trust


Send Out Cards


Constant Contact