Title: Maybe in Another Life (2015)
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Genre: Chick Lit, Contemporary
Extent: 342 pages
Release Date: July 7, 2015
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?
Taylor Jenkins Reid is far from being my favourite author, but I’ve always appreciated what her books speak to. Her stories are essentially, I think, coming-of-age stories: her protagonists always undergo some huge life change that forces them to grow and learn. In Maybe in Another Life, we see one protagonist do exactly that… but in separate timelines.
This is the story — or, well, two stories — of the life of Hannah Martin, who has just moved back to Los Angeles and now needs to figure out what she wants. On a night out, a former lover asks her to stay and she’s given the choice to say yes or no. The timeline splits here: her ‘yes’ timeline looks very different to her ‘no’ timeline, and the scenes in the book switch back-and-forth between the two.
“You don’t need to find the perfect thing all the time. Just find one that works, and go with it.”
Maybe in Another Life raises some questions about the idea of fate, destiny, and choice. Do we actually have free will? Do our choices matter, in the grand scheme of things? Is ‘meant to be’ a real thing, or is it just something that we say to make ourselves feel better about the choices that we made? At the time of reading this book, I’d just made the decision to move back to Indonesia so this could not come at a better time and Hannah’s story speaks to me on a really personal level.
Picking up this book, I wasn’t sure that I’d enjoy the concurrent timelines, but I was pleasantly surprised by how effortlessly it ended up reading. Instead of being bored and occasionally confused, I was pretty engrossed in both stories and really enjoyed seeing Hannah’s life branch off in two different directions and the choices that she makes in each timeline.
“Fate or not, our lives are still the results of our choices.”
There’s something about Reid’s writing style that has always sat weirdly with me, and I think I’ve finally figured out why in this book — it’s because occasionally, I feel like the prose is preaching to me. Don’t get me wrong, I totally get that Reid’s books are all about huge life lessons (and I love that, to be honest), but sometimes it feels like her protagonists suddenly inserts two or three quoteworthy paragraphs about life in the midst of their thoughts. It tends to take me out of the moment.
Now, I’m not a believer of fate, ‘meant to be’s or ‘the one’s, but I appreciate Reid’s take on things. Maybe in Another Life is a careful, meaningful examination on how our decisions, as little as they may seem at the time, affect the entirety of our lives. While this book has flaws, it’s an effortless yet emotional and thought-provoking read.
“When you sit there and wish things had happened differently, you can’t just wish away the bad stuff. You have to think about all the good stuff you might lose, too. Better just to stay in the now and focus on what you can do better in the future.”
REAL RATING: 3.5 stars