Same As It Never Was

 Twenty-one-year-old college student Olivia Martin has made an art of building walls to keep the world out. Saddled with an immature mother, domineering father, cold stepmother, and bratty four-year-old half-sister, Olivia is more than happy to keep her distance from the people she sarcastically calls her “family.” But when her father and stepmother are tragically killed in a car accident, the responsibility for half-sister Celia’s care lands squarely on her shoulders. Suddenly faced with a new role, Olivia realizes that this may be her second change to be a part of a family – something she always figured she was better off without. LaZebnik has written a poignant debut novel that’s funny and touching by turns. In a solid, well-told narrative, she skillfully contrasts Olivia’s prickliness with her mother’s and Celia’s neediness, and her ability to draw a disparate cast of characters together into a new family makes for an engaging read. Highly recommended for most public libraries.

– Amy Brozio-Andrews, Albany P.L., NY; Library Journal, April 15, 2003


40 responses to “Same As It Never Was

  1. Pingback: Bookstore People · Book Carnival Book Giveaway of Claire LaZebnik Novels

  2. Anonymous

    this was the 1st book i read by claire lazebnik (1st and only so far). i loved it so much that im rereading it! i feel so much like olivia (sarcastic, cynical, ex.)but also like she’s so lucky (hot TA). i’ve met so many guys like joe and even more girls like charlotte and betsy (not 2 mention the class of undergrad girls). the book was so easy to relate to and so hilarious (did i spell that right). idk. sumtimes its hard to sum up how much i loved same as it never was. i still can’t believe she ended up with dennis. i didn’t pick her for the 40 yr old lawyer type. still all in all this was my favorite book ever

  3. Anonymous

    Arrogant, sarcastic, rude, incessant, bitter, cynical, disrespectful, evil, hostile, mean, blunt, and wild are a few names that i’ve been called recently. we’re talking strangers, family, friends, and even kids (i was called mean this morning by my 4yr old niece). my mother calls me sour. i forgot to put that one. my boyfriend calls me little shit after he read your book (i left him alone in a blackout and he found it on my dresser and read it). apparently he thinks olivia and i are similar. i told him he reminded me of joe, but i added that he wasn’t welcome to cheat on me. your book is now common conversation (he starts it) in our relationship.

  4. Jennifer

    Great movie anzd I’m glad they made ininto a movie (hello sister goodbye life) it rox luv Jen ps I’m upset danny got voted off American idol I thougt Adam or kris shouldve Adam sucks and kris can’t sing but is in some ppls point of view cute

  5. Rachel

    i didn’t know we were supposed to talk about american idol on a BOOK website

  6. Claire

    Well, as long as people are visiting the site, I’m good with anything! Sadly, I’m not watching “American Idol” this season. I think I’m burned out on it. So I have no opinion on the matter.

  7. Barbara

    I just discovered you this summer and read all three of your books – Loved them all! I can’t believe I have to wait 2010 for the next one. Keep up the good work!

  8. Claire

    I love being discovered! Sorry it’s taking so long for the next one, but then I’m hoping things will move more quickly. Thanks for your lovely note, Barbara!

  9. Hi! I really wanted to tell you how much I love this book. It has a permanent spot in my top five favorite novels. I guess that probably wouldn’t mean much unless I tell you the other four, but they kind of vary. Right now keeping you company is Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl, Quite the Other Way by Kaylie Jones, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, and Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. Please know that I am totally kidding about that last one! I guess the fifth would be Obernewtyn by Isobelle Carmody, because it kicked off one of my favorite fantasy series.

    Anyhoo, I’ve read all of your fiction, and your writing just gets me every time. Thanks for all the laughs (and tear)!

    Take care,

  10. Claire

    I’m honored!

  11. Steffanie

    I read only two of your fiction books, but I loved them. they were great. I kind of have a problem that I don’t quite know how to handle. You see, I have a baby sister who’s twelve. (I’m twenty-six so I guess my parents kinda got back in the groove) She spent a weekend at my house and came across my bookshelf. As mature as Lily (my sister) is, when she read Same As It Never Was she cried and laughed and got so angry that she slammed my door so hasrd it broke off the hinges. I’m not exagerating. I didn’t know she was reading it untill she finished and asked me what it meant when Olivia said ‘flavor of the month’. That I could handle. What I can’t handle is deciding whether or not to tell my parents she read it. What should I do?

  12. Anonymous

    Hi, Steffanie. Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond, but I was away for a week and then I’ve been dealing with sick kids. I’ve known a couple of twelve-year-olds who’ve read the book and been okay with it. It’s been recommended as a “young adult” book (which is admittedly more the 15 to 28 range than 12) and I’ve always felt that while there are some four-letter words and sexual situations, the book is morally pretty sound–it’s about overcoming your selfishness and helping your family. Doing the right thing. So maybe that’s an argument you could make to your family?

  13. Hey Claire,
    just wanted to let you know how much I love Same as It Never Was…I’ve read it probably more than five times already and it still gets me every time…
    Anyway, I am a Hungarian translator (translated Eat, Pray, Love, and The Art of Racing in the Rain, among others…) and would love to recommend it to some of my publishers.. Who could I write to about translation rights in Hungary? Thanks so much. Laura

  14. Claire

    Wow, Laura, how lovely of you to ask! Thanks so much. I actually went ahead and forwarded your query to my agent who handles foreign rights and all. Hope that’s okay. You made my day!

  15. Cindi

    I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED this book!!! Believe it or not, I actually called Dennis and Olivia from his first visit to the house after she moved in with Celia. I was rooting for them the whole way and HATED Joe from the start! I don’t think it was that the book was predictable (because although that’s what I wanted, I thought I would be wrong)… which was the best part! I got my way and didn’t expect it! Hahaha. But I would soooooo love to see Dennis and Olivia and Celia 10 years down the road… (hint, hint, hint!!!)

  16. Claire

    I’m so glad you enjoyed it so much! Thanks for letting me know. It’s still my favorite although I do think my next one–the one that’s coming out this fall–touches on some similar themes.

  17. elawalker

    While browsing our local library, I was hopng to find a catchy tittle & book cover jacket that would make me pull it off the shelf. Yours did stand out. I do judge books by covers but more so by the first couple lines on the first page of the first paragraph. It grabbed my attention right away. I finished it tonight as I didn’t want to put it down as it had me that intrigued. I can only hope that you will write a sequel say afew years down line. It would be interesting to know how Olviia & Cecelia manage and Dennis too.
    You have a knack for writing what we all think at times of certain people.With your dry sense of humor, your characters are believable of someone we all can relate to. So please if you may, do us the honor… your fans, to continue to entertain us & allow us to escape…

  18. Claire

    Thank you so much for such a nice note! I have to admit that I haven’t planned a sequel for this one because I was so happy with the way they ended up–such a bizarre but content little family. My new novel, which is coming out in early September (I REALLY have to start a page for it on this blog) does have some similar themes in it. The protagonist is again a very young woman thrust into being a mother sooner than she expected (but for very different reasons) and ends up living with her parents. They’re a much closer family and her child is older, a six-year-old boy, and the plot revolves around the school he’s in–but once again the main character is growing up at the same time as her child!

  19. Definitely my favorite of your books, I agree. I loved it so much I closed the cover and started sobbing. That might be because I’m slightly insane and neurotic, but I think mostly because I really loved it. THANK YOU.

  20. Claire

    So glad you liked it. My dream is to get it republished one day so more people will read it–it didn’t get a wide readership back when it first came out.

  21. I did, I loved it! I re-read the last two chapters twice today!

    I’ll help spread the word and get everyone I know to read it. Though, honestly, that’s not many people 🙂

  22. I can’t get it out of my head! I’ve been thinking about the story and characters all day- which I must say was a welcome change to the boring thoughts work generally brings- I love how there’s a little Emma-Mr.Knightley dynamic between Dennis and Olivia.

    And actually, it really makes me want to read Knitting Under the Influence again! There’s another older man/younger woman storyline there that I really enjoyed.

  23. Claire

    You’re razor sharp, Rachel–that relationship was based completely on Knightley/Emma–I’ve always loved the idea that someone who cares about you will actually try to help you become a better person.

  24. I don’t know if it’s razor-sharpness or Austen-obsession. Probably the latter. I love Emma and Mr. Knightley. And I agree, when someone cares about you, they will encourage you to do the right thing. And when you care about them, you’ll want to do the right thing.

  25. Claire

    It’s like that movie with Jack Nicholson–“As Good as It Gets” when he says “You make me want to be a better man.”

  26. I LOVE that movie! I like anything with Greg Kinnear, though. But, yes, that’s a great line- makes my heart melt every time

  27. Pingback: The Books I’ve Read This Year, Part 2 « I Picked Up a Pen One Day…

  28. Sisi

    Hi Claire!
    I write from italia therefore I hope you will excuse my not very correct English..I have seen the film basated on your novel and I would like to read it. it has been published in italian? with which title? on internet I don’t find news of it..I hope you will help me..

  29. Tahmina

    hi i just read your book Same as it never was after watching the film and i have to say i love the book, its definitely one of my favourite and so so much better then the film! Please write Sequel i so want to find out more about the characters and their life.

  30. Claire

    Thanks, Tahmina! I’m not sure about a sequel but I’ve written several other novels, with two more coming out this summer!


  31. Jacqueline

    I recently read this book after finding it in a library on vacation. And truly, I have to tell you that this book was really an amazing story. The way you were able to develop the characters and show that Olivia had to take responsibility for Celia was great. This book was a really nice read! Kudos, and keep up the good work!

  32. Claire

    Thanks, Jacqueline. My dream one day is to get this book re-published. I really love it and so few people ever came across it!

  33. Anonymous

    I recently watched the move based on your book (“Hello Sister, Goodbye Life”) and desperately wanted to read the novel version of it. However, I live in Malaysia, where it is difficult for me to get certain books. I noticed that on the Sony Reader website, you have most (if not all) of your books available. So WHY WHY WHY don’t you have this one available as an ebook too?

  34. Claire

    It had a different publisher than the other books, and was published before the e-books thing became big. I’m so sorry though! I think you can still get a hard copy through amazon. Will they ship to Malaysia?

  35. Anonymous

    Yeah they will…it’s such a shame though, as I already have an e-book account with credit. Are you sure that they will never have plans to publish an e-book version?

  36. I was strolling through the library trying to find a book to read on vacation, I left with three but I never made it through the rest of them! Any spare moment I had I cracked open your book. Your characters seem to be in such an outrageous situation at first but are easy to relate to once the book continues on. Most of what made me fall in love with Dennis’ character were the tiny actions you gave him, like when he is fiddling with the towel around the champagne bottle while telling Olivia that it was okay that she went out even though he was hoping she’d stay. Olivia reminds me of my sister, has a foul mouth but always does the right thing. Thank you for writing this book, it put smiles on my face, butterflies in my belly and tears in my eyes. Definitely found it at a good time. Keep ’em coming!

  37. Claire

    Thanks, Melanie. I wonder if all authors love their first books the most–this one still feels like the most ME of all my books. I’m so glad you liked it.

  38. Paige

    Went through a box of my Mum’s box the other day and found this one. My copy is called “Olivia’s Sister”.
    Absolutely loved it! I feel that I can relate to her on some level, which I really like, it made me want to never put it down!

    The ending was not what I expected, but feel that it was perfect and I really enjoyed it! 😀

  39. Claire

    So glad you liked it. It’s the British publication of Same As It Never Was–my first novel.

  40. Pingback: Claire LaZebnik: ‘Ik kon niet wachten om naar mijn laptop te gaan en aan één stuk door te schrijven’ | Boekhopper

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