“Portrait of a Thief” by Grace D. Li – Review

By: Tory Tanguay


Ocean’s Eleven meets The Farewell in Portrait of a Thief, a lush, lyrical heist novel inspired by the true story of Chinese art vanishing from Western museums; about diaspora, the colonization of art, and the complexity of the Chinese American identity.

Goodreads


Want to read something for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month? Then read Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li. This debut novel by Li is a inspired by the all too common practice of colonizing art from China (it should be noted that this occurs with other countries too), what it means to be Chinese-American, and what it’s like to feel your heart pulled in two different directions when it comes to calling a place home.

            “History is told by the conquerors” the book jacket’s synopsis begins. Art from China has been stolen from over the years and placed in museums all over the world, colonization of art if you will. Which leads to the question (and indeed part of the basis of the book), what should happen to these stolen pieces of art? Should they stay where they are or return to their country of origin? (Considering I’ve been listening to a lot of history podcasts recently that mention repatriation of art and artifacts, I was intrigued by this premise.)

            The novel follows five young, Chinese-American adults as they near the end of their college lives or come to a turning point in their career. We meet Will Chen first, being interviewed by police after a group of thieves breaks into the Sackler Museum where he works. The unknown group of thieves steal a bunch of priceless Chinese art and Will is intrigued. Soon he is approached with an offer he can’t refuse; form a crew and steal back five zodiac heads from museums all around the world for China. He recruits his sister, Irene, the con-artist; his long-time friend, Daniel Liang, the thief; former flame, Alex Huang, the hacker; and Irene’s roommate, Lily Wu, the getaway driver. The book bounces between each protagonist’s point of view but it’s easy to follow the overall plot and each character adds their own version of the events going on.

            Once the plans for each heist begin, this is where the book lost me a little. It is very clear that this group of friends have absolutely no idea what they’re doing in plotting and carrying out a major crime. They perform research by watching heist movies such as “Ocean’s Eleven” and “The Fast and the Furious”. Because why not? We all know those movies are truly realistic. While they do perform some research on critical items, such as map layouts of the museums, how long security takes to respond, getaway routes, etc. most of their planning isn’t truly hidden from potential prying eyes. They plan via text messages (not encrypted) and Google docs (I kid you not). As you continue reading you realize, this may have been intentional but overall I just lose the ability to sink myself into the story due to a “lack of realism.” Yes, I realize this is a fictional work but still.

            I gave this book 4/5 stars because while it’s still enjoyable, it isn’t very practical. Maybe that’s just me expecting too much out of a novel but oh well. While I realize that most people aren’t going to know how to successfully pull off an art heist (I’d be really impressed with an author who did) I feel like it could have been made to be slightly more believable. However, as mentioned before, maybe that was the point. I also wish there was a little more variety in perspectives of the protagonists and a little more delving into the idea of what it means to be from two different cultures and how that relates to the desire of obtaining “The American Dream.” All in all, a good debut novel by Li, but maybe not great.


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“The Echo of Old Books” by Barbara Davis – Review

By: Tory Tanguay


“Rare-book dealer Ashlyn Greer’s affinity for books extends beyond the intoxicating scent of old paper, ink, and leather. She can feel the echoes of the books’ previous owners—an emotional fingerprint only she can read. When Ashlyn discovers a pair of beautifully bound volumes that appear to have never been published, her gift quickly becomes an obsession. Not only is each inscribed with a startling incrimination, but the authors, Hemi and Belle, tell conflicting sides of a tragic romance.

With no trace of how these mysterious books came into the world, Ashlyn is caught up in a decades-old literary mystery, beckoned by two hearts in ruins, whoever they were, wherever they are. Determined to learn the truth behind the doomed lovers’ tale, she reads on, following a trail of broken promises and seemingly unforgivable betrayals. The more Ashlyn learns about Hemi and Belle, the nearer she comes to bringing closure to their love story—and to the unfinished chapters of her own life.”

Goodreads


Content warning: parental suicide, anti-Semitic feelings during WWII

Book empath Ashlyn Greer owns a rare bookstore called An Unlikely Story in 1980s New Hampshire where she buys and trades rare books. What is a book empath you ask? Ashlyn has the gift to feel the emotions that previous book owners leave behind on its pages e.g. grief, hatred, joy, loss, etc. (Kinda cool and different if you ask me!) A gift that she keeps to herself for fear that others may think she’s crazy or making it up. (Completely understandable in my opinion.)

One day, while going through boxes of books, she comes across a beautifully bound volume that is somewhat unique – no author is mentioned, no publisher, no identifying features whatsoever. Only a title – “Regretting Belle.” A few days later she finds a similar book that appears to be a companion to “Regretting Belle” called “Forever, and Other Lies.”

Curious, Ashlyn begins reading to find that the two books are related in their storylines. They are differing sides of a tragic, forbidden romance between Hemi and Belle in 1940s New York City. The two doomed lovers meet at Belle’s engagement party and despite being engaged to another man, Hemi falls deeply in love with Belle. But something goes wrong in their romance and bitter feelings abound.

The novel The Echo of Old Books changes point of view between Ashlyn, Hemi, and Belle, intertwining their stories and revealing their long-held secrets. The books she found become an obsession for Ashlyn to find out who this couple was and what happened to them. In her searching, she meets Ethan, the man who formerly “owned” the books and is unaware of their perceived value. Will their relationship mirror the books they’re reading? Will Ashlyn discover the real identities of Hemi and Belle and discover where they are now? Or will the mystery forever remain an unsatisfied obsession?

This is the first novel by Barbara Davis that I’ve read. It was released March 28, 2023 and I downloaded it shortly after having read the synopsis. This book… oh my gosh. If you want a book to engage your emotions and hit you in all the feels, then read this book. This book explores the idea of two sides to every story, feelings of anti-Semitism that were rampant during World War II, and love found and lost. While World War II anti-Semitic feelings is a tricky topic to address, the author treats it with the delicacy and sensitive manner it deserves while still being historically accurate and remaining purposeful for the story. The writing is spectacular and keeps you engaged. I found this book difficult to step away from for long because I just had to know what happened next.

Each chapter begins with a bookish quote – either from the character of Ashlyn Greer or from a noted personality of the past which I found incredibly charming. I found myself highlighting these passages in my Kindle so I could save them for later. The quotes resonated with me as a reminder of why I love reading and books in general.

I gave this book 4.5/5 stars and would highly recommend to those who like historical fiction and especially those with dual timelines. For those that enjoy a mix of romance and mystery, this book should be added to your TBR.


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“The Invincible Miss Cust” by Penny Haw – Review

By: Tory Tanguay


Must-read historical fiction for fans of Marie Benedict and Tracey Enerson Wood, based on the real-life of Britain and Ireland’s first woman veterinary surgeon.

Goodreads


I have worked in veterinary medicine for almost 20 years, seven years of which I’ve been a veterinarian. With March being Women’s History Month, I found myself wondering about the women who have gone before me in the field. Who were they? What struggles did they have? What oppositions did they face in a field that used to be completely dominated by men? (Veterinary medicine is by far and away a female-dominated field right now.) Then, I came across this book, The Invincible Miss Cust by Penny Haw. I had never heard of Miss Aleen Isabel Cust before but once I read the synopsis, I knew I had to read it.

This historical fiction novel tells the tale of Miss Cust, the first Irish and British female veterinary surgeon, born in Ireland to an aristocratic English family in 1868. I felt a kinship with Aleen because like her, I knew from a young age that I was destined to work with animals. It was my calling in life as it was hers. Her family, however, is strongly opposed to the idea for back then women were only (supposedly) good for getting married, keeping house, and having babies. Her family is absolutely horrified by the idea of her not wanting to marry and wanting to go into the field of veterinary medicine as the only acceptable occupations for women were wife and maybe a nurse or teacher. Even then, a lady of her breeding should not demote herself to something as menial as working. But “haters gonna hate” and Aleen pays them no mind and pursues her dream of becoming a veterinary surgeon.

This is truly a book that took me on an emotional roller coaster. At the risk of sounding cheesy, I laughed, I cried, I got angry, and I celebrated in Aleen’s joy, while reminiscing about my own journey through veterinary medicine (all full of the same emotions). The first half of the book seems to stick decently to research performed by the author, but the second half seems to turn into more of a story of romance with much creative liberties taken. This second part seemed to drift away from the feelings and tone originally established by the author and was a little unexpected. The romance doesn’t really seem to go anywhere and honestly seems to be slightly thrown in as it seems to be a complete deviation from Aleen’s established personality and mindset. Not to say that people don’t fall in love on life’s journey, they absolutely can. It just doesn’t work for me.

I gave this book four out of five stars. I do especially recommend it for those interested in the history of women in veterinary medicine. It most definitely sent me down a rabbit hole of doing my own research on women in the history of vet med as well.


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“Things I Wanted to Say, But Never Did” by Monica Murphy – Review

BY: BRITTANY LEWIS


Whit Lancaster burst into my life like a storm. Dark and thunderous, furious and fierce. Cold, heartless and devastatingly beautiful, like the statues in our prep school gardens. The school with his family name on the sign. He can do no wrong here. This is his domain.

He’s a menace on campus. Adored and feared. Hated and respected. His taunting words carve into my skin, shredding me to ribbons. Yet his intense gaze scorches my blood, fills me with a longing I don’t understand.

When I stumble upon him one night alone, I find him broken. Bleeding. My instincts scream to leave and let him suffer, but I can’t. I sneak him into my room. Clean him up. Fall for his lies. Let him possess every single part of me until I’m the one left a gasping, broken mess.

When he leaves me alone in the dead of night, he takes my journal with him.

Now he knows all my secrets. My hate. My truth. And he promises to use my words against me. I’ll be ruined if my darkest secret gets out.

That’s when I strike a bargain with the devil.

I’ll let Whit Lancaster ruin me behind closed doors instead.

Goodreads

[UPDATE 1/9/23: THIS POST WAS CHANGED TO REMOVE REFERENCES TO THE 30 REVIEWS IN 30 DAYS CHALLENGE. I HAD A LOT OF REAL LIFE OBSTACLES THAT LEAD TO THE CHALLENGE FAILING, BUT THE REVIEWS I WAS ABLE TO COMPLETE WILL REMAIN UP]

“Thinks I wanted to Say, But Never Did” is another New Adult romance with a bully male love interest but this time the female protagonist has more badass in her.

Summer has a tragic past, including a sketchy step-brother and step-father and the content involving them require warnings. From what I recall there is no overly graphic scenes, but I would still caution away from reading this book if even a passing reference to rape is triggering to you. Take care of yourself, there’s better books out there you’re not missing much skipping this one.

I skimmed reviews today to remind myself of the plot and characters, and this quote summarizes what I do recall very succinctly.

Basically moral of this book is, all men are trash except for Whit.

♡tanaz♡

I do remember enjoying this book, it took me 10 days to finish but I’ve been having my Alexa assistant read my Kindle books to me before bed which has slowed my reading schedule down. I also had a busy beginning of the year finishing up my Preclinical Experience and Demonstration Teaching while finishing up my Masters in Education this past August (fyi why I have not written reviews in forever).

“Things I wanted to Say, But Never Did” had some great smut scenes and darker themes throughout but it did not draw me into reading more by Monica Murphy. As you will see in later reviews, I had moments I binged either series or an author’s catalogue of books. I even began rereading a series (we will go into detail on that when I get to Penelope Douglas in a couple days).

I am keeping strong with my 4 ☆ ☆☆☆ review because I enjoyed the darker themes and drama in this book.

“Broken Hill High” by Sheridan Anne – Review

BY: BRITTANY LEWIS


‘Go live with Nate Ryder,’ they said.

‘Everything will be fine,’ they said.

Are they nuts?

Nate Ryder has been the bane of my existence for the past five years. He’s made it his personal mission to make my life a living hell and now my parents expect me to go and live with the guy for the foreseeable future.

No thanks. I’d rather gouge out my eyes with a toothpick than live with him and his little brother, Jesse. Only problem is, they have my parents wrapped around their little fingers, thinking they’re the good little boys they pretend to be.

But I know better, and so does the rest of Broken Hill High.

Nate Ryder is not to be messed with. He’s a bad boy through and through. A bully. A guy who doesn’t care who he has to step on to get what he wants. He’s the devil and he knows it.

Now that devil is my roommate.

I better hold on tight because this is going to be one bumpy ride. One where I can guarantee that I won’t come out the same.

Goodreads

[UPDATE 1/9/23: THIS POST WAS CHANGED TO REMOVE REFERENCES TO THE 30 REVIEWS IN 30 DAYS CHALLENGE. I HAD A LOT OF REAL LIFE OBSTACLES THAT LEAD TO THE CHALLENGE FAILING, BUT THE REVIEWS I WAS ABLE TO COMPLETE WILL REMAIN UP]

The first book I read in 2022 was “Broken Hill High” by Sheridan Anne. This is the first book in a 5 book series. The second book, “Broken Hill Halo” was unfortunately put on my did not finish (DNR) list.

I rated “Broken Hill High” a 4/5, but I cannot recall why. Honestly I can barely remember the book at all. It melts together with a lot of what I’ve read the past 2-3 years, romance.

The concept of the book, and the series as a whole sounded like it was up my alley. An old friendship strained, a bully romance. Hell, I started my love of the subgenre with Penelope Douglas’ book “Bully”!

“Broken Hill High” just didn’t do it for me.

It had all the tropes and all the angst and New Adult themes and scenes, but the execution and writing just didn’t hold up. I was able to finish the book, apparently enjoying it since I rated it highly, but with the second book boring me enough to DNR it I cannot recommend this series.

What I do remember about this book is that the protagonist’s parents have to travel for work or something and request she stays with her mom’s friend, but because she is 17/18 and dislikes the older son of her mom’s friend the protagonist decides to stay at home. Something happens, I believe the male love interest – even though he bullied the protagonist the last few years – noticed she wasn’t eating and secretly cared for her, and the male love interest ends up kidnapping her. Eventually the two reconcile, mostly due to teenage hormones and close proximity rather than healthy or mature connections. The protagonist has a healthier friendship with the younger brother (2 year age gap I think?) than with the male love interest.

“Broken Hill High ” did not click with me, I can’t even remember the protagonist’s name and honestly I don’t care. The synopsis says the male love interest’s name is Nate, but it’s so inconsequential to this review. This book is just a copy and paste bully trope that thinking back was really boring. Because of that I am giving a new score of 2  ☆ ☆.

“An Ocean of Minutes” by Thea Lim – Review

By: Angie Haddock


In this novel America is in the grip of a deadly flu pandemic. When Frank catches the virus, his girlfriend Polly will do whatever it takes to save him—even if it means risking everything. When she finds out there’s a company that has invented time travel, she agrees to a radical contract: if she signs up for a one-way-trip into the future to work as a bonded laborer, the company will pay for the life-saving treatment Frank needs. Polly promises to meet Frank again in Galveston, Texas, where she will arrive in twelve years.

-Goodreads


Amazingly enough, this book came out in 2018 – as in, before our current pandemic. And it was on some “books of the year” lists at the time, but I had not heard anything about it! (I wasn’t on bookstagram yet, so there’s that.) So I happened upon it by chance, but I was immediately taken in by the story, which is both mesmerizing and frustrating.

The story takes place during a pandemic. Time travel is invented, initially to try and stop the pandemic, but that doesn’t work. Instead, people in the beginning years of the pandemic are recruited to jump forward to the post-pandemic era, when there is a dire need for workers. One benefit offered is medical treatment for a loved one in the current era – including expensive, life-saving treatment from the disease ravaging the country.

Such is the situation with lovebirds Polly and Frank. They are in their twenties, and far from home when the outbreak happens. (They’re from Buffalo, but find themselves stuck in Texas now.) When Frank becomes ill, Polly agrees to leap forward 12 years. They agree to meet at an area landmark as soon as she “arrives.”

Unfortunately for Polly, she arrives to a world that is totally foreign to her. The country split into two – the United States and America. She is basically an indentured servant to the time travel company, or whoever they loan her out to, until she works off her expenses. She can’t travel north without a passport, as it’s now a different country. And the hotel she was to meet up with Frank at is now a port, with tight security.

The book bounces back and forth between Polly’s past and present. We learn of how she and Frank met, why they were in Texas, and the like. In the present/future, her situation goes from bad to worse several times, and she struggles with whether or not she should ever hope for more. There are a few turns that literally had me yelling, “No!”

The copy I have has an author Q&A in the back, in which Lim says she modeled Polly’s experiences after those of many illegal immigrants who constantly feel they have no choice but to do the crappiest jobs and live in the crappiest conditions. Sometimes their biggest barriers are not knowing the language or culture of the place they find themselves (or not understanding the rules).

Also of note is that the whole book takes place in our past. Polly and Frank meet in the late 1970s, and the world she finds herself thrust into is in the late 1990s. (Obviously, it is a very different 1990s than we knew!)

This is a very moving story. There’s a mild sci-fi aspect, in that time travel exists. And there is a moderate love story, although most of the book is spent with our leads being separated. But overall, it’s just a gripping tale of one woman trying to survive in a world she cannot understand.


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“The Defiant Middle” by Kaya Oakes – Review

By: Angie Haddock


Women are expected to be many things. They should be young enough, but not too young; old enough, but not too old; creative, but not crazy; passionate, but not angry. They should be fertile and feminine and self-reliant, not barren or butch or solitary. Women, in other words, are caught between social expectations and a much more complicated reality.

Goodreads


I had read one of Oakes’ books before (“Radical Reinvention”) and loved it, so I was excited to get on the advanced reader list for her newest book! The title refers to both being middle-aged, and also being caught in between society’s expectations of a woman and the life choices you want to make.

There are so many juicy bits in here, I found myself highlighting a LOT. But it’s bad form to quote an ARC directly, so this will be a challenge.

Each chapter examines an idea that society holds about women: they may be seen as too young, old, crazy, barren, butch, angry, or alone. She weaves in stories of her own life and ones from history. She examines how women of a certain ilk may have been treated in different times, religious sects, or in pop culture.

Also of note, Oakes writes with religion in mind – specifically Roman Catholicism. I think that the stories will appeal to anyone interested in women’s issues, though, even if they are not of this (or any) religion, because this is only one lens she uses to examine the issues at hand.

To offer one example that might appeal to my writer friends: in the chapter on women being labeled as crazy, Oakes laments that, as a student, most women authors she had to study in school carried that label (Dickinson, Plath, Shelley). She argues that some of them may have had other legitimate issues, but nevertheless, even as an MFA student in writing, she was told over and over again that women writers were all crazy.

She spends some time on trans women, and even offers a couple examples of trans women in history – women I definitely had not learned about before. (Like the Universal Friend.) She also discusses the idea that you do not have to have kids – or even the ability to carry them – to be a woman (as anyone with a hysterectomy can attest to).

I think this book would appeal to women of all stripes – women with or without kids, women in or not in relationships, women with or without an interest in religion. I have definitely already recommended it to multiple friends!

This book hits shelves today, November 30th. I was able to read in advance thanks to the author, Kaya Oakes.


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The LitenVerse by Nino Cipri – Review

By: Angie Haddock


When an elderly customer at a big box furniture store slips through a portal to another dimension, it’s up to two minimum-wage employees to track her across the multiverse and protect their company’s bottom line. Multi-dimensional swashbuckling would be hard enough, but our two unfortunate souls broke up a week ago.

-“Finna,” on Goodreads

To test his commitment to the job, Derek is assigned to a special inventory shift, hunting through the store to find defective products. Toy chests with pincers and eye stalks, ambulatory sleeper sofas, killer mutant toilets, that kind of thing. Helping him is the inventory team — four strangers who look and sound almost exactly like him. Are five Dereks better than one?

-“Defekt,” on Goodreads


This is actually a series of two (so far) novellas, “Finna” and “Defekt.” They both take place in the same root location, which is a fictionalized/surrealist version of Ikea. Specifically, these stories take place at a store – LitenVarld – outside of Chicago. They also take place on overlapping days. But we’ll get to that…

“Finna” was released in 2020, and centers on Ava and Jules. Ava, much like the famous line from Kevin Smith’s “Clerks,” “wasn’t even supposed to be here today.” She had arranged her schedule specifically to avoid seeing her recent ex, Jules, at work. But, a character we don’t meet in this book named Derek has called out, and so Ava heads through the cold MidWestern February to do a job she hates.

A customer comes to the service desk saying she can’t find her grandma, and Ava inexplicably feels for the young lady. Then things get weirder, as she learns that it is not entirely uncommon for wormholes (maskhals) to open in LitenVarld. It happens frequently enough that there are policies in place – and Ava, as the employee with the least seniority, has to go into the wormhole to find the missing grandma. Unfortunately for her, Jules volunteers to go with her.

The two go into various parallel universes looking for the missing grandma. In some, they are in different versions of the store. But they also find themselves in a jungle, and in the water. They encounter threats from other beings, as well as from things that should be inanimate objects (in our own universe, at least).

I won’t give away the ending, but let’s say… different people return than the ones who went in.

“Defekt” allows us to finally meet Derek, and we even learn why he called out on the day Ava came in for him. He spends most of his day off asleep, but then comes back to work the next day – the day after the wormholes had opened – to find a whole new slew of issues at the store.

Specifically, a specialized team has been called in to eliminate defective merchandise – furniture that has come alive – and Derek is chosen to work with them. What’s even crazier is that everyone on the team is a different version of Derek. Are they clones? Is he manufactured to be a “company man?”

Both stories explore the ideas of belonging, finding your “people,” and sacrificing your life – or deciding NOT to sacrifice your life – to your job. Overall, it’s a zany surrealist satire that does not hold back on its disdain for minimum wage corporate jobs that demand assimilation to the corporate culture.


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“The Secret History of Food” by Matt Siegel – Review

By: Angie Haddock


An irreverent, surprising, and entirely entertaining look at the little-known history surrounding the foods we know and love.

Goodreads


This was a quirky book I found randomly on NetGalley. It was a short and fun read, with ten chapters covering:

How the history of food/agriculture is intertwined with human history, pie, cereal, corn, honey, vanilla/ice cream, celebrations surrounding food and drink, having too many choices, chili peppers, and how we fall prey to misconceptions about (or willful mislabeling of) the foods we eat.

Some of my favorites were the sweet chapters, like the ones on pie and ice cream. For example, did you know that ice cream’s popularity in the U.S. skyrocketed during prohibition? Apparently, we needed an alternative method of drowning our sorrows. And ice cream became a staple of soldiers’ diets during WWII – good for both fast calories and boosting morale.

The chapter on chili peppers was also entertaining, as it basically points out the craziness of doing things that hurt us. Various kinds of peppers were used in early agricultural days to keep animals out of the crops – by planting them around the perimeter, the would-be pests would encounter the hot peppers first, and turn the other way. And yet, we eat them on purpose. Are we just adrenaline junkies, or do we feel we have something to prove?

The last chapter is a bummer, though, as it gets into how much of our food is mislabeled, not as healthy as it claims, or doesn’t get inspected as much as it should. Specifically, vitamins and seafood are often not what they purport to be.

The book is so meticulously researched, though, that the footnotes take up HALF of the length. So, as I said earlier, it’s a quick romp to get through the ten chapters.

This book comes out today, August 31st. (The full title is “The Secret History of Food: Strange but True Stories About the Origins of Everything We Eat,” but that seemed a little long for the header of this post.)


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“The Midnight Library” by Matt Haig – Review

By: Angie Haddock


Between life and death there is a library, and within that library, the shelves go on forever. Every book provides a chance to try another life you could have lived. To see how things would be if you had made other choices… Would you have done anything different, if you had the chance to undo your regrets?

Goodreads


This is a book that most “book fiends” have probably tackled – or at least heard of – by now. In fact, it was named the Goodreads Choice Awards Best Fiction Book of 2020.

Among the many online reviews and posts I’ve seen people make about this one, I’ve really only seen one complaint – the fact that the main character tries to commit suicide can be depressing/triggering for some people. And while I would never fault anyone for their personal triggers, I do have to say – if you don’t get past that part, you will miss the entire story. The act happens near the beginning, and is what propels the main character to find the Midnight Library. So, I would say this – know that this is something that happens in the book, and proceed accordingly. While this is a fabulous story, it may not be for everyone.

Our main character is Nora Seed, and as it says at the top, she gets to try on many different versions of her life. But she doesn’t get to just pick them by what they are today – she has to change something in the past, not knowing what else might be different in that alternate reality.

To give you one example: our “root” Nora believes that she let her brother down by leaving the band they were in together. So, in one instance, she finds the life where she never left the band. The band is huge, global rockstars. She got to date her celebrity crush. But, her brother isn’t in the band anymore in this life.

Most lives, as this example illustrates, don’t turn out exactly like Nora envisioned. After seeing this play out a handful of times, Nora begins to have less and less regrets about the decisions she made in her root life.

The real key to what she learns from this experience can be found within the following quote:

There are patterns to life… Rhythms. It is so easy to imagine that times of sadness or tragedy or failure or fear are the result of that particular existence. That it is a by-product of living a certain way, rather than simply living. I mean, it would have made things a lot easier if we understood that there was no way of living that can immunise you against sadness… there is not life where you can be in a state of sheer happiness for ever. And imagining there is just breeds more unhappiness in the life you’re in.

This is a fun story, with a good lesson. They do actually talk about the multiverse theory a little, but not so much that the book on the whole feels like science fiction – I’d call it closer to magical realism, maybe? Very real people and messy lives, with a little bit of the fantastic thrown in.


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