Publisher: Washington Square Press
A People Magazine Pick * US Weekly “Must” Pick
Named “Best Book of the Summer” by Glamour * Good Housekeeping * USA TODAY * Cosmopolitan * PopSugar * Working Mother * Bustle * Goodreads
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.
What Did I Think About the Story?
Taylor Jenkins Reid is one of those authors that, when I see a new book of hers ready for pre-order, I instantly hit the button and then wait anxiously for it to arrive at my door. Her books are just that good! She has this way of making you really feel for her characters, she makes you internalize their pain and joy until you are just breathless watching their lives unfold on the page. For me, she also makes me look at relationships and their issues and successes in a different way than I necessarily did before. She mixes humor with heavy elements so that the stories are neither fluffy nor overly depressing and I always feel completely satisfied when I turn the last page. In other words, I'm a fan!
In Maybe in Another Life, our main character Hannah has kind of drifted through life, never really putting down roots or committing to anything in particular. The more you get to know her you discover that her parents moved to London when she was a teenager while she stayed in L.A. and lived with her best friend's family and, since then, she has been trying to discover where and what "home" is for her. While I can't say I've experienced this same feeling or agree with all the choices she made by the time we meet her, she is charming and caring and a completely sympathetic character. She's the kind of girl I would want in my corner if I really needed someone to be there for me, good or bad, and tell me the truth when no one else would.
The story really takes flight when Hannah and her friends go out to celebrate her return to L.A. and we begin to see how one tiny decision - whether to go home with her best friend Gabby or her ex-boyfriend Ethan - can spiral into two very different, yet in some respects very similar, life paths. I'm not about to give away how either story progresses because that would spoil too many surprises for anyone who wants to read it, but I will say that neither life is a smooth path and both are filled with the many ups and downs of any life. This seemingly small choice will have far-reaching consequences for not only Hannah but many other characters, and it was fascinating to see how the various characters experienced many of the same elements - infidelity, pregnancy, feeling alone, finding love - in both storylines even while they were presented or experienced in different ways. This brings up the whole fate versus choice debate and my mind was spinning back and forth as I tried to see which way the cards would fall for each of them.
The end of the book presents a concept that I am completely in love with now and it is this: each choice we make fractures our life into alternative universes, and each of those alternate universes is another existence or life that we are living parallel to the one we are in now. With all the choices we make each and every day this gives us infinite, varied lives that we are living. There might be some similarities that remain across the universes but it would be impossible for them to be the same. I keep thinking about how, if I hadn't agreed to tag along with a friend one night in college, I might never have met my husband and might then never have had my son. However, it could be that we would have still met, just at a different time and under a different circumstance. Or, I could have met someone else and be living a whole different life. Who knows! I start getting emotional when I think about this too much as I don't really want to imagine my life any other way and I'm just glad I am living in this universe. What I end up coming away with each time is that, regardless of whether fate will have its way or not, we have to make the choices we think are right for us and let the world unravel the way it will.
Taylor Jenkins Reid's novels are smart women's fiction, novels that make you really think about your life and how much you can relate to her character's experiences and feelings. I've read all three she's written so far (click on the name to see my review of Forever, Interrupted and After I Do) and I've loved each one more than the last. I can't recommend her enough for those looking for an emotional, thought-provoking book that tests what you think about love and relationships and leaves you longing for more.
What Did I Think About the Cover?
While I do enjoy the composition and the woman who I take to be Hannah looking at the two similar yet different pictures, I really wish the cover matched the covers for the previous two novels! They are both similar in style and with complementary colors, and this one won't look quite as pretty next to them on my shelf.
My Rating: 5.0/5.0
Has anyone else read any of Taylor Jenkins Reid's novels? If so, what did you think? What do you guys think about the fate versus choice debate? Is there one life and love for each of us, or are their lots of options?