Also by this author: One True Loves, After I Do, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Forever, Interrupted, Daisy Jones & The Six
Published by Washington Square Press on July 7th 2015
Pages: 342 •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.
“I don’t believe that being in love absolves you of anything. I no longer believe that all’s fair in love and war. 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.”
I’d been wanting to pick up Taylor Jenkins Reid book for a really, really long time when I saw that Maybe in Another Life was available through my library’s Overdrive account. It wasn’t the novel of hers that was highest on my TBR list or the one that people recommended I start with, but since it was the only one available I decided to dive in, craving a break from my typical YA books in favor of exploring the lives of characters in their later 20s. I fell completely head over heels in love with Jenkins’ writing, her characters, and her ability to write adult fiction that captured the transitional decade of one’s 20s so poignantly and realistically.
In many ways, Maybe in Another Life has the potential to be a disaster. It follows the story of Hannah Martin, a 29 year old woman who still hasn’t really set any roots or solidified any future for her life. After living in numerous cities across the United States, she decides the best course of action after getting out of a messy relationship is to return to her hometown of Los Angeles. On her first night home she encounters an ex-boyfriend who had a huge impact on her teenage years, and makes the decision of whether to go home with him or not. The book then diverges into two story lines told in alternating chapters. In one world Hannah goes home with Ethan, and in the other she doesn’t. Reid does the best job I’ve ever read in handling the alternating plot lines without the story ever getting muddled or confused. Each plot, while different, keeps pace with the other and large plot points occur at the same time in both time lines, albeit in different ways. Each chapter ended in a mini cliffhanger, making me crave more, but then dragging me back into the other universe which was so, so compelling.
Aside from Reid’s skill at handling the parallel universe structure, I was impressed with her ability to balance both romantic relationships and strong friendships and give them equal weight. Hannah’s love interests are definitely a huge part of each story line, but what was even strong was her friendship with her friend Gaby, who is there for her no matter what traumatic, drastic, or scary life changes Hannah is going through. Hannah in turn is able to reciprocate this behavior for Gaby as well, and it didn’t feel like a disingenuous friendship that was inserted for the sake of having a female friendship represented. Gaby and Hannah embody every positive aspect of female friendships and completely shatter the negative stereotype of female friendships.
I also applaud Reid’s ability to make me like a protagonist that under normal circumstances would have probably driven me up the wall. At the beginning of the novel (and for most of her entire life), Hannah is impulsive, non-committal, and rather irresponsible. These are traits that really grate against my admittedly Type-A personality. However, Hannah’s kindness, realness, and honesty kept me far from being irritated. She’s aware of her flaws and throughout the course of both universes we see her actively working on taking control of her life and of fate (a huge theme throughout the novel). By the end of the novel Hannah’s character growth is so strong and realistic that I felt so attached to her and happy with the outcome and choices she made in both universes, because she had made them with courage and conviction.
Overall: Taylor Jenkins Reid is clearly gifted in writing about what it means to be an “adult” today, and how there are so many more stages of it than you acknowledge or realize until you’re living in them. I loved the parallel universe structure of this book, the way that both story lines felt authentic and true to Hannah, and the way Reid gives her characters so much depth that I could bump into them walking down the street (or standing in line at a bakery for a cinnamon role). The one wish I had about this book is that it had either been a bit longer, or that less of the time had been spent on setting up the two universes View Spoiler »(particularly all the time Hannah spent in the hospital) « Hide Spoiler and had focused a bit more on the outcome of certain major life choices. I know that I am going to be a Taylor Jenkins Reid reader for many, many years to come as I navigate my own adulthood.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Goodreads Challenge 2016