Better Luck Next Time: A Novel (Hardcover)
January 2021 Indie Next List
“Johnson’s latest novel has all the heart and soul fans of Be Frank With Me enjoyed, coupled with a retro setting at a divorce ranch in Reno during the Great Depression. Funny? Check. Heartwarming? Check. A rollicking, all-round good read? Check! Do yourself a favor and read it. Then share it with someone you love.”
— Susan Taylor, Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, NY
"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 eagerly 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.
About the Author
Julia Claiborne Johnson is the author of the bestselling Be Frank with Me, a finalist for the American Bookseller’s Association Best Debut Novel Award. She grew up on a farm in Tennessee before moving to New York City, where she worked at Mademoiselle and Glamour magazines. She now lives in Los Angeles with her comedy-writer husband and their two children.
"Johnson’s rollicking comedy sizzles, thanks to the immensely appealing voice of its aging narrator...brims with the clever banter and farcical situations of a classic Capra film."
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Julia Claiborne Johnson's real skill is a literary sleight of hand: creating humorous characters with big hearts, then using them to deliver a story with a surprising emotional wallop. There were tears from heartbreak and joy! My face still hurts from smiling."
— Steven Rowley, author of Lily and the Octopus and The Editor
"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
"Rollicking, nostalgic, wistful and wise, Better Luck Next Time is another gem from Julia Claiborne Johnson. Like a modern-day Anita Loos (but with more heart), Johnson spins an irresistible yarn that captures Depression-era disappointments, hopes, and determination, and paints a touching story of how even a life gone wrong can be a life well lived."
— Karen Dukess, author of The Last Book Party
"Channels Frank Capra’s screwball comedies...There is a delightful sense of closure in the way Johnson wraps up this shiny package, which arrives just after New Year’s like a late holiday gift."
— Christian Science Monitor
"An engrossing portrait of 1930s Reno...witty and charming."
“Better Luck Next Time crackles with wit and wisdom. This delightful novel of love and loss on a divorce ranch in Nevada during the Great Depression is poignant, hilarious, and, at times, achingly sad. I love this glorious book!”
— Mary Pauline Lowry, author of The Roxy Letters
“Charming, captivating and big-hearted, Better Luck Next Time pulls you into a fascinating and hilarious world—a Depression-era divorce ranch outside of Reno—where love in all its complexities will have you laughing and crying until the last page.”
— Lydia Fitzpatrick, author of Lights All Night Long
“Julia Claiborne Johnson captures the ambivalence and uncertainty of wealthy women on a dusty Nevadan 'divorce ranch' during the Depression, poised between husbands and between worlds, ripe for sisterhood and frightening yet exhilarating opportunities for adventure. This lively and surprisingly tender tale captures the wit of the South and the grit of the West, while asking age-old questions about the drawbacks and benefits of freedom and independence. Better Luck Next Time is a page-turner, and a treasure.”
— Christina Clancy, author of The Second Home
“Witty and charming . . . . a story that will stay with you for a long time."