Thursday, July 2, 2015

Maybe in Another Life

Title:  Maybe in Another Life
Author:  Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publication Information:  Washington Square Press. 2015. 352 pages.
ISBN:  1476776881 / 978-1476776880

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "It's a good thing I booked an aisle seat, because I'm the last one on the plane."

Favorite Quote:  "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 hat 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."

We think it's the big choices - home, job, relationship - that determine our lives. They do but only to an extent. The big decisions come along at certain junctures in our lives, but we make a multitude of small decisions every single day. What if I go left instead of right? What if I say yes instead of no? What if I stay in instead of going out? What if....? What if....?  How many of these small decisions forever alter the direction of our lives? Which of these little choices send us in a completely different direction than the opposite choice? Taylor Jenkins Reid looks at these question through the eyes of the character Hannah Martin.

At age 29, Hannah Martin is trying to find her perfect life. She has moved city to city, finally returning after a failed relationship to the place of her childhood. Hannah is back in California, reconnecting with her best friend Gabby and an old boyfriend. On her first evening home, she sees friends, including her school boyfriend Ethan. At the end of the evening, a choice presents itself. Does she go home when Gabby and her husband leave or does she stay out with Ethan? Little does she realize that her entire life depends on this one little choice.

The remainder of the book follows the two possible paths Hannah travels in her life, all hinging on this one seemingly inconsequential choice. In short alternating chapters, the book presents what happens along each path - not just for Hannah but for the people surrounding her. The ripple effects of Hannah's life reach far beyond her. In what is an easy to read, light hearted story, the author explores philosophical questions. Are our lives determined by choice or chance? Are certain things meant to be no matter what choices we make?

What makes this book really work is that the characters of Hannah and her best friend Gabby ring true. Hannah is perfectly imperfect. At times, her choices are deplorable. In her late twenties, she is drifting. She is indecisive and unsure of what she wants in life. She still dreams of a true soul mate and a happily ever after. She loves her family but sometimes cannot be around them. She has made big mistakes in her life, and then started over. She is slowly coming to conclusion that sometimes " don't need the answer. You just need an answer."

All throughout, she has had her best friend Gabby by her side. Unlike Hannah, Gabby has made the stable big choices - career, marriage, and a close knit family relationship. However, it appears that she is no less adrift than Hannah for our choices many times have unforeseen consequences. Sometimes, "life is unpredictable beyond measure."

Romance, love and relationships form a part of this story, but the main theme remains that of choices and consequences. The book is perfect for a casual, vacation read, but also has enough depth to make you think and leave you contemplating your own small choices.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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