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“With her trademark wit and charm, Camille Pagán invites us back into the lives of Libby and Shiloh thirteen years after we first met them in Life and Other Near-Death Experiences. Don’t Make Me Turn This Life Around is rich, raw, and real, a new favorite . . . Readers like me can’t help coming back for more of Pagán’s gorgeously written stories. I loved it!”

—Kerry Lonsdale, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post bestselling author

“Oh my goodness! Camille Pagán has achieved such an exquisite, delicate balance, writing a profoundly moving novel that expresses both the beauty and heartbreak of loving other people. Don’t Make Me Turn This Life Around is everything: funny and warm and scary and sad and reassuring—just like real life. I read this in one sitting because I simply couldn’t stop.”

—Maddie Dawson, bestselling author of Matchmaking for Beginners and A Happy Catastrophe

“Camille Pagán’s latest page-turner brilliantly captures the nuances of marriage and family while tackling the tough challenges along the way. Libby is every wife and mother, and when life throws her a curveball, she finds the courage to keep moving . . . and keep believing. With wit and wisdom, Don’t Make Me Turn This Life Around will have you laughing and crying along with these perfectly flawed characters and asking yourself, What does it mean to have enough?”

—Rochelle Weinstein, bestselling author of This Is Not How It Ends

“Pagán masterfully guides us on a stormy journey through a morass of middle-age malaise and deposits us on the other side with charm, humor, truth, and a few lessons about the power of love and unbreakable family ties.”

—Andy Abramowitz, author of A Beginner’s Guide to Free Fall

“Camille Pagán pens another hit with the compulsively readable Don’t Make Me Turn This Life Around. I trust Pagán’s storytelling, and in her latest, she masterfully guides us through a woman’s journey through real ups and downs in marriage and motherhood.”

—Tif Marcelo, author of Once Upon a Sunset


This Won’t End Well

I’m Fine and Neither Are You

Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties

Forever Is the Worst Long Time

Life and Other Near-Death Experiences

The Art of Forgetting

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

Text copyright © 2021 by Camille Pagán

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.

Published by Lake Union Publishing, Seattle

Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Lake Union Publishing are trademarks of, Inc., or its affiliates.

ISBN-13: 9781542026468 (hardcover)

ISBN-10: 1542026466 (hardcover)

ISBN-13: 9781542026475 (paperback)

ISBN-10: 1542026474 (paperback)

Cover design and illustration by Micaela Alcaino

First edition

For my sister, Janette Noe Sunadhar






































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I won’t say everything happens for a reason; whenever someone said that when I was going through cancer treatment, I wanted to punch them in the mouth, then ask them to give me the reason that’d just happened. As a dyed-in-the-wool optimist, however, I had to believe that getting lymphoma again was a tiny part of some greater plan the universe would later reveal.

Now, technically I hadn’t been diagnosed yet. But dread had been sitting like a stone in my stomach for weeks prior to my biennial checkup. Because I knew—the way you just know the lurker on the subway is seconds from pulling out something you don’t want to see—that it was back.

As my oncologist welcomed me into her office, her outstretched arms were nothing if not a pair of blazing red flags confirming my deepest fears. Then she hugged me so hard I could taste the bagel I’d had for breakfast, which seemed like even more evidence she was about to tell me I wasn’t long for this world.

Except she wouldn’t try to squeeze the stuffing out of me if my torso were riddled with tumors . . . would she?

“Libby, did you hear me?” Dr. Malone, who had sat back down, was staring at me from the other side of her desk.

“What’s that?” I said, blinking hard. I’d just been thinking that if freedom was another word for nothing left to lose, then midlife must be its antonym. At forty-six, I had nearly everything I’d ever wanted: a happy marriage, two delightful daughters, a meaningful career, a lovely home. I’d basically won the existential lottery.

Well, it had been fun while it lasted.

“Congratulations,” she said, beaming at me.

On instinct, I returned her smile. Then I remembered why I was sitting in front of her. I cleared my throat and said, “I’m sorry—why are you congratulating me when my cancer is back?”

She laughed. “It isn’t, Libby! I’m sorry if I slipped into medicalese. To be clear, your scans were spotless. There’s no evidence of cancer anywhere in your body.”

“Are you sure?” I said.

“It’s normal to expect the worst,” she said, but she had a funny look on her face. “Well, for most patients. Are you feeling all right?”

“Fine,” I assured her, because at least my eyes had started leaking a little. I’d live to see my twins, Isa and Charlotte, become teenagers. That was more than my mother, who’d died of ovarian cancer when I was just ten, had been able to say.

“I’m glad, but if you’re not fine, maybe this will help,” said Dr. Malone, peering at my chart, which was pulled up on her computer screen. She looked away from the monitor and smiled at me again. “Your official anniversary is next month, but I think we can safely call

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