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 attempts to become the father he didn’t know he could be.

Charlie Goldwyn’s life hasn’t exactly gone according to plan. Widowerhood at thirty-three and twelve-hour workdays have left a gap in his relationship with his quirky five-year-old son, Caleb, whose obsession with natural disasters and penchant for girls’ clothing have made him something of a loner at his preschool. The only thing Charlie has going for him is his job at a prestigious law firm, where he is finally close to becoming a partner.

But when a slight lapse in judgment at an office party leaves him humiliatingly unemployed, stuck at home with Caleb for the summer, and forced to face his own estranged father, Charlie starts to realize that there’s more to fatherhood than financially providing for his son, and more to being a son than overtaking his father’s successes.

At turns heartbreaking and hilarious, This Was Not the Plan is a story about loss and love, parenthood, and friendship, and what true work-life balance means.
  • Touchstone | 
  • 352 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781501103759 | 
  • February 2016
List Price $26.00
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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.