Wednesday, March 20, 2024

The Day Tripper

The Day Tripper by James Goodhand
  The Day Tripper
Author:  James Goodhand
Publication Information:  MIRA. 2024. 368 pages.
ISBN:  0778369641 / 978-0778369646

Rating:   ★★★

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Wind howls through the rafters."

Favorite Quote:  "The world is as wide as the chances that come our way. Take an opportunity, and it leads to more opportunity, and so on. The world opens  up, like wings or...something."

***** BLOG TOUR *****


The premise of the book from the description:  "What if you lived your days out of order?"

The expansion of that premise in the book itself:
  • "My whole life already exists? ... Yours, and mine, and everybody's ... We are all eternally surrounded by our own past and our own future."
  • "What if everybody experiences time randomly? It's just that their memory and conscious thoughts provide a grid - map - references for everything - creating the illusion of one chronological, continuous existence."
  • "You and I, regardless of the order in which they come, live each day of our life once. We are just like everyone else in that regard."

The lesson of the book, as you might predict: "This - our predicament - you could see it as a curse, forced to live life out of order, never knowing what comes next, what matters and what doesn't. But it can be a very find gift as well. In the right hands..."

I love the unique premise of this book. The book conveys that premise beautifully. Alex Dean never know what is coming next. Most days, he is even unsure what came before or in the middle. He wakes up every day in the middle. Each day is a piece of the puzzle, and perhaps he can find the picture and a vision for his life.

The first person narration embeds the reader in Alex's confusion and his dilemmas. It works to convey his point of view. At the same time, the first person narration creates a dilemma for the reader. The book jumps into this out of order life and continues day to out of order days. It makes it difficult for me as a reader to find an anchor or to "get to know" Alex such that I invest in the character. I am not sure how a little bit of grounding in Alex's life or the character could be accomplished given the theme of the book, but I wanted some.

I travel along with his confusion. I empathize with individual relationships - parents, girlfriend, friend. However, without the context, it is difficult to invest in the relationships.

That is exacerbated by the fact that the entire book is Alex's perspective. It would have been interesting to perhaps see some of the other characters and their views. Are they having their own out of order experiences? What are the joys and sadness of their relationship with Alex? What have they noticed about him?

Perhaps, that is the entire point of the book. We don't know another's perspective. In order or out of order, we see the world as we see it not as it may actually be. To some extent, the lesson of this book is similar to that of the movie Groundhog Day. In that movie, the character lives the same day over and over again. Over time, he manages to change his entire outlook and his life in that one day. In this case, Alex jumps forward and backwards in time. Perhaps, knowing a future outcome, he can make a change in the past? However, does that then change the future again? If Alex lives each day only once, how does that work? Read the book and find book. A book memorable for its premise.

About the Book

What if you lived your days out of order?

It’s 1995, and twenty-year-old Alex Dean has it all: a spot at Cambridge University next year, the love of an amazing woman named Holly and all the time in the world ahead of him. That is until a brutal encounter with a ghost from his past sees him beaten, battered and almost drowning in the Thames.

He wakes the next day to find he’s in a messy, derelict room he’s never seen before, in grimy clothes he doesn’t recognize, with no idea of how he got there. A glimpse in the mirror tells him he’s older—much older—and has been living a hard life, his features ravaged by time and poor decisions. He snatches a newspaper and finds it’s 2010—fifteen years since the fight.

After finally drifting off to sleep, Alex wakes the following morning to find it’s now 2019, another nine years later. But the next day, it’s 1999. Never knowing which day is coming, he begins to piece together what happens in his life after that fateful night by the river.

Why does his life look nothing like he thought it would? What about Cambridge, and Holly? In this page-turning adventure, Alex must navigate his way through the years to learn that small actions have untold impact, even in a life lived out of order. And that might be all he needs to save the people he loves and, equally importantly, himself.

About the Author

James Goodhand has written two YA novels. His YA debut, Last Lesson, was called "a powerfully charged study in empathy," by the Financial Times. THE DAY TRIPPER is his adult debut. He lives in England with his wife and young son.


Excerpted from THE DAY TRIPPER by James Goodhand. Copyright © 2024 by James Goodhand. Published by MIRA Books, an imprint of HarperCollins.
SEPTEMBER 6, 1995 | AGE 20

It’s three-deep at the bar, and I get my order in seconds before they ring for time. I double up: a JD and Coke each and two beers to take with us. The lights are up and the music’s gone quiet as I weave the tray through the punters. Standing in the doorway out to the terrace, I am disorientated. There must be fifty tables outside between here and the river and it’s still packed out, darker and smokier than ever. I search the crowd but can’t see Holly.

I negotiate my way down to the water’s edge. She’s maybe ten tables away, oblivious, a ciggie poised skyward in her fingers like she’s posing for Vettriano. I smirk, enjoy my good fortune again.

“Excuse me, good gentlemen,” I say to a group of four in my path, voice cocky with booze and lust. They shuffle over, not breaking from their conversation. The resulting gap between their circle and the edge of the path isn’t wide enough—a careless elbow would send the tray of drinks into the river, possibly me with them.

“If you don’t mind, guys?” I lay a palm on the forearm of the bloke with his back to me. Their circle opens out and he turns side-on, ushering me past. “Nice one,” I say, glancing at him as I pass.

I look back at the ground. There’s a delay in my brain processing who it is I’m walking past. There’s a moment in which it seems that we’ll just carry on, pretend like we don’t know each other.

The air thickens. Time slows. I stop, a step past him. Look again. Razor-sharp short back and sides, hooded eyes, lopsided mouth. Preppy. It’s a face I catch myself imagining sometimes, never for long. A waking nightmare. Not that my imagination does it justice. Not even close, I now realize.

His recognition of me unfolds in slow motion. Perhaps like me, alcohol has dulled his synapses, delayed the inevitable shift of mode.

Blake Benfield. There have been times in the past when just hearing that name in my head has stopped me dead, left me incapable.

How long since we last ran into each other? I was sixteen—best part of four years, then. Feels so recent. Our paths crossing has always been inevitable; we grew up barely a mile apart. He spat at me that last time, called me faggot cunt. The many times before that I’d just legged it, hidden from his fury and his hatred. But you get too old to do that.

This crowded place seems so quiet now. Like there’s cotton wool stuffed in my ears. The two bottles tip over on my trembling tray, foam splattering to the ground. One rolls over the edge and shatters on the concrete. People turn.

How long have we stood here, him glaring at me, me unable to hold his stare? Saying nothing. A few seconds? Feels longer.

There’s the smell of burned-out house in my nose. The sound of his whisper in my ears that I try to drown out.

Don’t think about it. Do not think about that day.

Why do I shake? I’m a fucking grown man. Why am I shaking?

He takes a half step closer to me.

I once told him I was sorry. It was years ago—when I was still a kid. I was sorry. Does he remember?

I spin around. Where’s Holly? She must be watching this.

There’s no more delay. There is, of course, nothing for me and this bloke to say to each other. We have ventured into each other’s space, and that brings with it a remembering. And, as we always have, we must deal with that in our own way.

His knuckles graze my chin. I stumble backward and the tray falls to the ground. His swing is off, though; there is no pain. Not even surprise. We definitely have an audience now.

My response is pure instinct: palms raised, lean away. Easy now.

I don’t want to fight this man. I want to go back thirty seconds, walk a different route, have this night back for myself.

Blake closes the gap, my weakness an invitation. His second punch crashes into my ear like a swinging girder. My brain slaps side to side in my skull. Vision sways. My head boils, a cool trickle from my eardrum.

Where is Holly? Panic grips. I can’t just stand here and take this.

My eyes flit to our audience. He swings again, this time with his left. But I see it coming, dodge. He stumbles.

I drive my weight, shoulder first, into his ribs. He goes over, sprawled among the spilled drinks and shattered glass.

On all fours, he stares up at me. I’m perfectly positioned. I could kick him square in the face. End this right now. Why don’t I do it? Why can’t I bring myself to do it? I’d rather turn my back and cry than kick his head in.

He glares up at me. Why do I pity him? Why am I so uncomfortable towering over him like this? It’s like the positions we’ve always held have been reversed. The power is mine.

I let him find his feet.

He’s up and level with me again. He glares like a bloodthirsty dog, wipes his nose on the sleeve of his polo shirt. If we were alone, maybe I’d run. But with people watching, with Holly watching, that’s no option.

My punch lands perfectly. His jaws scissor against each other. For a second his head floats, eyes rolling.

I realize my error too late. I should’ve followed up when I had the chance. One punch is only enough in the movies, everyone knows that. His hands are on the collar of my shirt, cloth tearing as he holds firm. His forehead slams into the bridge of my nose like a sledgehammer. My face is suddenly and totally numb. I drop to the ground. A ruby-red stain spreads fast through the jewels of broken glass around me.

He shouts above me. Every filthy word I’ve long come to expect. Something soft disperses against my head. Spit.

The neck of the Stella bottle I dropped lies on the ground. Inches away. Blood gurgles in my mouth as I take a deep breath. I launch like a sprinter. Leading with the dagger of green glass, I’m aiming straight at his face and closing fast.

Blake backs into a table, stumbles, hands slow to cover his face. His eyes widen, abject fear. But this is no time to be derailed.

I see it too late. No time to react. One of Blake’s friends windmilling a table ashtray. The side of my skull cracks like thunder.

The ground feels like a cushion, drawing me in and bouncing me back. My vision finds enough order in time to see the sole of boot accelerating toward me, like a cartoon piano from the sky.

There is no pain. Just a sense of floating in space.

Time passes. More blows land.

The surface of the Thames billows like a black satin sheet as it rises toward me. There’s no fear. Is that Holly I can hear calling my name? It’s so distant, so hard to tell.

The river gathers me in like it’s here to take care of me.

Cool water spears my lungs like sharpened icicles. I sink forever.

A low hum builds in my ears. Lights fades to nothing.

And I sleep.

NOVEMBER 30, 2010 | AGE 35

My head throbs. It doesn’t matter if I open or close my eyes, the pain worsens either way. My mouth is like dust. Joints and muscles lie seized.

Last night is a blank. I hate that. I look above me. Focusing is excruciating. The ceiling is browny cream, textured in spikes like a Christmas cake. An unshaded bulb swings in the draft, the filament shivering. It’s really cold in here.

Where the fucking hell am I?

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