Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid (website | twitter)
Publisher: Washington Square Press (Atria/Simon & Schuster)
Source/Format: eARC provided by publisher on Edelweiss
Publication date: July 7, 2015 (tomorrow!)
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Buy It: Indigo.ca | Amazon.ca | Amazon.com | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound | The Book Depository | iTunes From the acclaimed author of Forever, Interrupted and After I Do comes a breathtaking new novel about a young woman whose fate hinges on the choice she makes after bumping into an old flame; in alternating chapters, we see two possible scenarios unfold—with stunningly different results.At the age of twenty-nine, Hannah Martin still has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She has lived in six different cities and held countless meaningless jobs since graduating college. On the heels of leaving yet another city, Hannah moves back to her hometown of Los Angeles and takes up residence in her best friend Gabby’s guestroom. Shortly after getting back to town, Hannah goes out to a bar one night with Gabby and meets up with her high school boyfriend, Ethan.Just after midnight, Gabby asks Hannah if she’s ready to go. A moment later, Ethan offers to give her a ride later if she wants to stay. Hannah hesitates. What happens if she leaves with Gabby? What happens if she leaves with Ethan?In concurrent storylines, Hannah lives out the effects of each decision. Quickly, these parallel universes develop into radically different stories with large-scale consequences for Hannah, as well as the people around her. As the two alternate realities run their course, Maybe in Another Life raises questions about fate and true love: Is anything meant to be? How much in our life is determined by chance? And perhaps, most compellingly: Is there such a thing as a soul mate?Hannah believes there is. And, in both worlds, she believes she’s found him.
I think everyone likes to imagine the what ifs in life occasionally. “If I’d just gotten up earlier to take the earlier bus…” “What if I had taken biology instead of English?’ or “If I had taken a different route, would it have mattered?”
In the tradition of Sliding Doors, or the recent musical If/Then, Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Maybe in Another Life gives us a glimpse of what would have happened to Hannah Martin, a 29-year old woman who is starting her life over, if she had gone home with her newly re-met high school sweetheart one night or not.
Hannah has never been able to find a place to call home – she’s been moving around, waitressing, wandering, and falling into bad relationships. After a particularly bad one, her best friend, Gabby, tells her to come home. On her first night back, she, Gabby, and Gabby’s husband Mark go out to celebrate her homecoming. And that’s when she sees Ethan, her first love and ex-boyfriend – really, the one who got away. At the end of the night, Ethan asks if he can drive her home. Whether she goes with him or not is the impetus for two parallel storylines about her life.
Two things really got me about this novel: The first was just how similar the lessons that Hannah learns in her parallel lives are. Even though two hugely different things happen in Hannah’s life, leading to very different parallel universes, the realizations she gets are often the same, and there’s a feeling of destiny that really drives the novel.
The second, and more important thing is the idea that even if destiny is a real thing and we choose to believe in fate, that does not excuse us from taking responsibility for our own actions. This part of the book spoke deeply to me, because it was a recognition that we all make mistakes, and maybe we’re meant to do so, but that that ownership of blame, responsibility and choice still matters. TJR makes it clear that this is the only way we can take hold of our own lives, whether we believe in destiny or not. It’s painful and sometimes not very nice to learn, but learning it and owning it is what makes us better adults, better humans, and better able to move forward with our lives.
For Hannah, a wanderer who has been making bad decisions for the last few years, that recognition is a turning point in her life. And it’s not a surprise that this realization happens in both parallel worlds.
The good news is that this book isn’t as heavy as I’m making it out to be. Yes, Hannah is faced with difficult choices, but she’s also blessed with an amazing best friend (seriously, it’s a total femship with Gabby), wonderful love interests, and people who deeply care about her. TJR’s signature is creating a wonderful cast of characters who are quirky and lovable and real. Those secondary characters got me through the book.
If I have a qualm, it’s that the ending was a bit discordant from the themes of the novel and made it a little bit of a letdown. Overall, it’s still a book I would highly recommend, because the writing, the characters and relationships – everything is classic TJR: very real and very affecting.
Quotes to Live By:
“It doesn’t matter if we don’t mean to do the things we do. It doesn’t matter if it was an accident or a mistake. It doesn’t even matter if we think this is all up to fate. Because regardless of our destiny, we still have to answer for our actions. We make choices, big and small, every day of our lives, and those choices have consequences.
We have to face those consequences head on, for better or worse. We don’t get to erase them just by saying we didn’t mean to. Fate or not, our lives are still the results of our choices. I’m starting to think that when we don’t own them, we don’t own ourselves.”
“I don’t believe that being in love absolves you of anything. I no longer believe that all’s fair in love and war. In fact, I’d go so far as to say your actions in love are not an exception to who you are. They are, in fact, the very definition of who you are.”
“It’s entirely possible that every time we make a decision, there is a version of us out there somewhere who made a different choice. An infinite number of versions of ourselves are living out the consequences of every single possibility in our lives. What I’m getting at here is that I know there may be universes out there where I made different choices that led me somewhere else, led me to someone else…And my heart breaks for every version of me that didn’t end up with you.”
The Final Word
As usual, Taylor Jenkins Reid makes me reflect on my life with her superb riff on parallel lives. The themes of destiny and responsibility run hugely through this novel, and make it a worthwhile read. While the ending was disappointing to me, I still learned a lot and felt a lot throughout the novel. A solid, wise read.
MAYBE IN ANOTHER LIFE comes out tomorrow. Will you be picking it up? What do you think about the idea of destiny? Do you have a best friend who will pick you up in any way, no matter what?