What does it mean to have “the good life”? In her debut novel, Susan Kietzman explores this question through the lens of a wealthy woman—the wife of a CEO—who appears to have it all. Then her elderly parents move in, and her life is disrupted . . . and she is forced to figure out what really matters.
In a guest post, Kietzman describes her own understanding of what constitutes the good life—and how her ideas have changed through the years. If you also grapple with the meaning of “the good life,” then you will enjoy Kietzman’s novel. The Good Life is on sale today.
Finding the good life
By Susan Kietman
The term “the good life,” quick research tells me, can be traced back to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, meaning people have been pondering its definition for ages. I didn’t think about it in a conscious, complex way until I was a grown up. But as a child, I knew exactly what it was.
I usually walked to and from elementary school with my brothers. As I got older, I was allowed to walk by myself. And I can distinctly remember walking home alone on the last day of school when I was in fifth or sixth grade because this is when I had my first “good life” moment. I meandered down the sidewalk daydreaming about the long glorious summer ahead of me— going to the beach, swimming to the raft, catching fiddler crabs at the end of the dock and running around barefoot until the soles of my feet looked and felt like leather.
As a teenager, the good life revolved around my friends. And, as in my childhood, it could be experienced in a single moment, on a single evening. The scenario usually went something like this: One of my friends picked me up in her car, and then we drove around town picking up as many girls as the front and back seats would hold. We arrived at the party house and “Free Ride” by Edgar Winter was playing so loudly on the stereo that we could hear it as soon as we emerged from the car.
As a mother with young children, I was often overwhelmed by everydayness; the physical and mental fortitude needed to get from morning to night trumped any stray philosophical thought. I do remember having a conversation with my mother-in-law, who had to undergo a medical procedure necessitating a couple of nights in the hospital. How nice, I said to her, to have 48 hours of quiet time!
The good life, back then, was a feeling rather than a concept. It was something that happened rather than the result of active planning and tireless pursuit.
It wasn’t until my children were older and I had more time to observe those around me that I began to contemplate the good life in financial terms. This, it seemed, was what everyone my age was doing: comparing what they had with what their neighbors had. Cars, houses, clothing, memberships, boats, second homes, vacation destinations all loomed larger than they ever had before. Is this, I wondered, the middle-aged adult version of the good life?
I further wondered what those who appear to have everything thought about the quality of their lives. Did they still compare themselves to their richer acquaintances, or did they think they’d arrived at the summit? Were they happy? The Good Life is an exploration—using a modern-day wealthy family as the vehicle—of material wealth and the pursuit of happiness.