Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Pub. date: Jul. 2015 (read Jun. 2020)
I liked this. It definitely can’t hold a candle to Evelyn Hugo or Daisy Jones, but it was a quick, feel good read that was less predictable than I thought it would be.
Maybe in Another Life explores a simple premise around parallel universes. I’ve read some pretty complicated books about parallel universes (looking at you Blake Crouch); this isn’t one of them. It explores one choice that results in two separate timelines for 29 year old Hannah Martin, who has just moved back to LA and is trying to get her life together.
I won’t say anything more about the plot beyond that. It’s predictable in the ways you’d expect, but unpredictable in other ways. What I liked is that her choice had far reaching consequences, but also far reaching rewards. It’s easy to think of one choice as having a good and bad outcome, but the world is never that simple or that black and white. While that choice does result in both good and bad outcomes, everything about life is dynamic and both choices force Hannah to grow in ways she never anticipates.
I expected a story about romantic love, but this book is filled with all kinds of love. I love how it also explores family and friendship. Despite some of the heavy topics Reid introduces to the plot, it always stays lighthearted, yet I found myself reflecting a lot on familial love and I appreciated the importance Reid placed on friendship. While she is still selling a romance, Gabby was the person that I fell the most in love with.
The book is not without its failings, it is heavy handed towards the end where I found the author relied a little too heavily on ‘telling’ her audience instead of ‘showing’. I actually wished for a non-perfect ending in this book. The writing is good, but not great. It’s a thoughtful story, but it’s not great literature. What it is though is a promising early novel and since I’ve read what Reid went on to write after this novel, I can say with certainty that both her writing and story-telling have greatly improved.
The exploration of family was one of my favourite parts of the book, aside from Hannah and Gabby’s loyal friendship. I liked that Hannah had conflicts with her family, but that her relationship with them grew stronger in both timelines. I thought her conversation with her Dad in the hospital when she asks him to leave is heartbreaking but so honest and beautiful. In the same way I loved her Mom’s unexpected excitement over something Hannah thought would be shameful. I loved how Gabby’s parents were portrayed as well and how complicated, yet simple, loving people can be. The book was full of slightly flawed, but inherently good people, and I liked that.
I rolled my eyes at some parts because it was cheesy, especially towards the end, but overall it made me feel good. Could this book have offered more? Absolutely, but that’s not why I picked it up. I was looking for a quick, feel good book and this delivered. I appreciate the ideas the author put forth and can see now how her earlier books helped her grow as a writer.