This Was Not the Plan

A Novel

This Was Not the Plan

From the acclaimed author of The Darlings comes an incisive, hilarious, and tender exploration of fatherhood, love, and family life through the story of a widower who has to become the father he didn’t know he could be.

Charlie Goldwyn’s life hasn’t exactly gone according to plan. A widower at thirty-four, he is left trying to raise a quirky five-year-old, Caleb, whose obsession with natural disasters and penchant for girls’ clothing have made him a loner at his preschool. The only thing Charlie does have going for him is his job at a prestigious law firm where—after ten long years of twelve-hour days and working through weekends and a huge win on a settlement—he is finally a rising star on his way to becoming a partner.

But after a “Jerry McGuire” moment at an office party, Charlie finds himself humiliatingly unemployed and stuck at home with Caleb for the summer as he desperately tries to win his job back. When a wedding forces Charlie to spend time with his own father—whom he hasn’t spoken to in thirty-five years—he begins to realize that there’s more to fatherhood than being able to provide financially for his son, and vows to become the father he never had—and the father he never thought he was capable of being.

An intimate, accessible, and ultimately moving novel, This Was Not the Plan is a touching story about loss and love, parenthood and friendship, and what true work-life balance means.
  • Simon & Schuster Audio | 
  • ISBN 9781442391642 | 
  • February 2016
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Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for This Was Not the Plan includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Cristina Alger. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Charlie Goldwyn, a white-collar litigator at a prestigious law firm, is poised to become a partner. But at a company party held on what would have been his wife’s birthday, he makes a drunken speech that leaves him out of a job and humiliated. His newfound time at home might be a blessing in disguise, though, as Charlie finally has time to connect with his five-year-old son, Caleb. As they spend the summer together, Charlie must confront his long-estranged father and reevaluate his idea of professional success as he comes to terms with the meaning of fatherhood and what matters most.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. Charlie has a prepared response to justify working for a prestigious law firm that represents clients he doesn’t respect, but he contradicts himself when he speaks candidly at an office party. Do you think Mira’s birthday, lack of sleep, and stress are mostly to blame for his behavior, or do you think the moral dilemma is the root cau see more

About the Author

Cristina Alger
© Deborah Feingold

Cristina Alger

Cristina Alger is a lifelong New Yorker. A graduate of Harvard College and NYU Law School, she worked as a financial analyst and a corporate attorney before becoming a writer. Her first novel, The Darlings, was published in 2012. She lives in New York with her husband and children, and is currently working on her third novel.