Book Review: Maybe in Another Life – Taylor Jenkins Reid

maybe-in-another-life-taylor-jenkins-reid-book-review

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
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Goodreads Description

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?

Review

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

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30 thoughts on “Book Review: Maybe in Another Life – Taylor Jenkins Reid

  1. I have wanted to read this for a while because someone recommended it but the concurrent timelines made me unsure about it. I’m glad you ended up liking that aspect of the book, that makes me want to give this one a chance and since I got the ebook recently, I think I’ll read it soon. Great review!

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  2. Great review! I’ve read One True Loves by this author, and I was so disappointed with the book, and with also the fact that OTL is probably her most famous book. The plot of Maybe In Another Life sounds very interesting, but I just do not like Reid’s writing style, and I totally agree with you on how she inserts two or three quotable lines in between her prose. One True Loves had an amazing summary too but since I was so disappointed with that book, I’ll probably give this one a pass.

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    • I was actually disappointed by One True Loves too! Most of TJR’s books I really, really like the sound of, and then when I actually read it I’m like “eh” – something about her writing style generally doesn’t vibe with me, though sometimes I’m able to get past that (i.e. in After I Do).

      But yeah, I don’t blame you for giving this a pass! I mean, writing style does make up 100% of the book so… 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh I love books about decisions and their consequences! Choices we make and roads they lead to are so fascinating and.. well, downright scary! To think your life could go in one direction or another because of a small or big decision is so big! I’ll have to check this book out 🙂 Great review!

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    • ‘Downright scary’ is right! It’s why I’m always so indecisive, HAHA. My worries get the best of me. 😛

      I hope you do give it a chance. TJR’s writing isn’t really my thing, but I always love the premises her books put forward. 💕

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  4. This sounds really interesting. I’ve read a few reviews of this author’s work before that have made me think she wouldn’t be my thing, but this book sounds way more interesting that others ones I’ve heard of.

    I am going to be honest, I’m a big NA sceptic. Generally speaking, they sound to me like all sex and no substance. If a blurb mentions a guy’s pecks, I’m not going to read that book. This sounds more than that though. It kind of sounds like it might also feed into all the anxieties I have about decision making (which is why I basically don’t make any).

    Have you moved yet? Good luck with everything!

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    • Her books are actually not at all New Adult! I feel like they’re mostly contemporary/contemporary romance? And I hesitate categorising it as “romance” because relationships are rarely the point, haha. But yes, Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books are not at all like your typical romance/NA novels – they’re “deeper” than that and tend to give me food for thought.

      Thank you! I have indeed moved – I was/am sooo indecisive (and basically put off making the decision for like a year) so I can relate. 😛

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  5. Great review, Reg! 🙂 I’ve been eyeing this book for a while because the premise sounds like some thing I’m currently experiencing hahaha it’s so in line with my NA wish list. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it as well. I’m a bit wary of the parallel timeline though, I read Pivot Point by Kasie West with this exact type of story line, MC is faced with two choices and we get to see what will happen if they pick each choice. I enjoyed Pivot Point quite alright but the thing with parallel timeline is that I most likely will prefer one over the other, and then will (kind of) skim read the other hahaha 😂 I hope it’s not the case here though!

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    • Thanks, Puput! Haha, this one’s actually more Adult Contemporary rather than NA, but if you’re interested, I think you might like it.

      RE: parallel timelines – I actually thought I’d get bored as well but I suppose the lives are quite different so I didn’t really have a strict preference… and it wasn’t really until the ending that it got a teeeeny bit repetitive, so perhaps it’ll be less of a problem this time? I’d have to read Pivot Point to really compare, though. 🙂

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  6. Interesting format, to have two concurrent storyline moving at the same time showing you how a simple yes or no can change your whole life.

    Great review! While it’s something I’d read somehow its a little too close with some situation I’m currently facing, I’m not sure if its something I wanna read. But will def put this in my TBR for a better time! I might get a little wary of the “preachy prose” since I’m not into that…but still am curious enough about the dual timeline.

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  7. Great review for this book Reg, I’ll admit when I saw the blurb for this book and read the first line I thought, ‘wow, this practically describes my life right now’ because I have no idea what I’m doing either.
    I love the idea of this story being split into two different timelines so to say. It’s an interesting way to write a book and I am glad to see that you didn’t have any trouble with the story splitting between the two choices Hannah made. It’s just a shame that Taylor Jenkins Reid’s writing isn’t for you, because asides from that one fact it seems like this was maybe a really good book.
    Again great review! 😀

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    • Thanks, Beth! Haha, that part of the blurb resonated with me too – I also have no idea what I’m doing. It seems like there’s more of us who don’t have an idea than those who do, tbh. 😂

      I know. TJR’s books are such a dilemma to me – I’m always REALLY INTRIGUED by the premise, but her writing doesn’t vibe naturally with me so her books end up in the “average” rating more than not. 🙈

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      • That’s all right. And I think that just seems to be where most of us are at the moment. It’s the same with my friends so I don’t feel too left out that I have no idea what I’m doing with my life. 🙂
        Maybe one day you’ll find one that does vibe with you then. Are you going to keep reading then if the premise keeps interesting you?

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        • I am! I’m pretty sure I’ve actually read all of TJR’s published books… my favourite is After I Do, but tbh the writing also didn’t seamlessly fit with my tastes. Regardless, the themes she takes on are so important and relatable I just keep on wanting to read her stuff. 🙂

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          • Oh that’s good to hear, and yeah from what I remember of your reviews for her other books it does seem like she writes about interesting concepts. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that one day you find a book of hers that had writing that fits your tastes! 🙂

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  8. I really like the sound of this book! I don’t think I’ve ever come across a book that tells the story with parallel timelines. In contemporaries I feel you usually always see things from past to present when two people meet back up again so that’s definitely unique take. And I love the fact that it questions fate and if our choices ultimately affect a lot of things in our lives. Books that have philosophical questions like that intrigue me lol. I’m definitely adding this to my TBR. Great review as always, Reg!! 😁♥

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    • Yes, usually it’s at least a linear timeline type of thing even when we do get to see the past and the present! But in this book, it kind of splits into two different timelines, with the implications that there are even more out there.

      I hope you do give it a chance! TJR’s writing style isn’t 100% my thing but I’m always in love with the debates she takes on. 💗

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