Title: Maybe in Another Life
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Release Date: 07/07/15
Genre: Adult Contemporary
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars
I’m writing this review more than five months before it will be published* because that’s how excited I was to read Maybe in Another Life. I got it from Edelweiss and I pretty much immediately started it. I love Taylor Jenkins Reid. For real. The way that she perfectly captures what life is like in your late-20s and early-30s just blows my mind. I see myself and my friends in every single character and situation in her books.
That said I don’t really have a ton to say about Maybe In Another Life. Going into the book I had a lot of preconceived notions. I’ve seen the movie Sliding Doors many times and I’ve read many books where one the main character’s life splits into two concurrent stories that both shoot off of what happens when you make a small decision. I thought I knew what would happen when I started reading Maybe In Another Life, obviously not exactly, but I thought I knew the basic route the story would take, but I was proved wrong and I kind of love and hate that.
I love it because who wants to read something predictable? I love how Taylor Jenkins Reid took a fairly common idea for a story and made it into something all her own. I also loved the story and the characters. But I hated it because I can’t wrap the story up into a nice little box and think of it as done. I hate it because the way the story ended kind of makes me freak out about my own life.
I read this book and I’m writing this review at a strange time in my life. I got into one-and-a-half graduate schools so far, I’m number two on the waitlist for the half one, and I’m still waiting to hear from another. I don’t know where my life is going to take me and I’m trying not to freak out about it and just let things go and let the right path come to me, but this book has kind of freaked me out.
Almost 400 words in and I guess I should some something more substantial about the characters and the story. (I just really don’t want to ruin it because almost immediately the story went somewhere I didn’t expect.) Hannah is almost 30 years old (or as she says, “I prefer the term 29″) and she’s spent her life after college bouncing around the US, looking for a city to call home. She grew up in LA, but when she was in high school her parents and sister moved to London for her sister’s ballet career and Hannah stayed in LA to finish high school, living with her best friend’s family. Because of that she doesn’t really have anywhere to call home.
When the story starts she’s moving back to LA after living in New York and having just ended an affair with a married man. She moves back to LA not because it’s where she grew up, but because it’s where her best friend Gabby lives. Hannah moves in with Gabby and her husband and decides she needs a car, a job, and an apartment. She also had this idea that she might get back with her high school boyfriend, Ethan, since he was her first love and she kind of sees him as the one who got away. On her first night out in LA, Hannah and Gabby meet up with a bunch of high school friends, including Ethan, and at the end of the night Hannah has to decide whether to head out with Gabby and her husband or Ethan and in one version of the story she chooses Gabby and in one version of the story she chooses Ethan. And her life takes dramatically different turns that neither she nor I saw coming.
There are two things make that this story work. First, Hannah who is one of the most charming characters I’ve come across. In a certain way she’s frustrating because she was sleeping with a married man, she’s 29 years old with pretty much no direction, and she kind of leaves a lot of her life up to chance. But she’s also kind, sweet, and completely endearing. And the voice that Reid created for her was incredibly charming. She’s honest and self-aware, but also sarcastic and self-deprecating and makes bad decisions despite being a good, self-aware person. Basically she’s just really real.
The second real strength of Maybe in Another Life is the way Reid manages to tell both stories. There were times, especially towards the beginning of the split in stories, where I thought the story was a little too much Sliding Doors or some other book with this format, but the more I read the more I appreciated what Reid did. She didn’t so much weave the stories together, but they were related in a way that obviously took a lot of skill. Different things are revealed at different times in both stories and I was never sure what was going to figure into both and what wasn’t and for the things that did figure in both versions despite knowing what was going to happen it was so interesting to see the different way they were revealed. There were even small things that tied them together or were kind of nods at things going on in the other version of Hannah’s life.
Bottom Line: This wasn’t After I Do, my favorite of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books, but it’s still a very strong story that I highly recommend picking up. Maybe just due to where I am in my life it was a little more difficult for me to read and relate to, but I still enjoyed the characters and story that Reid told. If you are in your late-20s or early-30s or you want to know what life is like in your late-20s or early-30s in 2015 you need to pick up Reid’s books.
I received an electronic review copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss (thank you!). All opinions are my own.
* I debated going back and reworking this review to make me sound less neurotic and crazy, but I actually like how it all came out. Looking back at this book several months after reading it, and being in a much more stable place in my life, I actually appreciate this story more than when I first read it. I still don’t love it like I did After I Do, but I really respect it and the overall concept is something I’ve thought about a lot in the last few months.
One Year Ago: Book Review: Boomerang
Two Years Ago: Gayle Forman Read Along: Sisters in Sanity: Week 3