Book Blog Tour: Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I was thrilled to be offered the opportunity to take part in the blog tour for Taylor Jenkins Reid’s new book, Maybe in Another Life.
Author Taylor Jenkins Reid
It’s no secret what a fan I am of her previous two novels, Forever, Interrupted (review on Goodreads) and After I Do, which I interviewed Taylor about. I think she’s a stellar, emotionally sensitive writer, and I will forever buy any book she puts out. So, yes, I may have just shown my bias, but I want to preface my review of this new book by pointing out the things that have already made me a forever-fan.
Before I get to my review, here’s the synopsis:
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, but on the heels of a disastrous breakup, she has finally returned to her hometown of Los Angeles. To celebrate her first night back, her best friend, Gabby, takes Hannah out to a bar—where she meets up with her high school boyfriend, Ethan.
It’s just past midnight when Gabby asks Hannah if she’s ready to go. Ethan quickly offers to give her a ride later if she wants to stay.
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 surprisingly different stories with far-reaching consequences for Hannah and the people around her, raising questions like: 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.
Pretty intriguing, yeah? I can never resist a plot that revolves around fate – a big believer in it myself. So, with advanced galley in hand, I greedily dug into the book and finished within a couple days. Here are my thoughts:
I’m a huge fan of Taylor’s and admire her ability to write characters with such depth that I feel like I’ve met them and experienced their story right alongside them. She manages to inject humor into the most emotionally trying scenes, and her plots as a whole grip you by your most basic human needs – love, rejection, loss, family, friendship. Maybe in Another Life did all of these things, but it was noticeably different from her previous two novels.
Pulling off a dual narrative is challenging, especially when it’s the same narrator experiencing two different plots (well, they were mostly different). Personally, when I’m reading a book with multiple narrators or dual stories (past, present, etc), I find myself drawn to one and rushing through the others. I have to give Taylor many kudos because that didn’t happen here. Her two stories kept similar pace; however, that pacing was a bit off.
Providing readers with introspective passages (especially if you’re going to write in first person) is imperative to a story’s progression and the reader’s ability to emotionally connect with a character. MIAL used heavy chunks of dialogue, pages at a time, with little to no “story” surrounding it. Taylor’s dialogue is spot-on in that it’s fun, quippy, and makes her characters come to life, but without the story in-between, the book can begin to read flat, almost…surface-level. I grew a bit tired of the back and forth and craved those deeper passages that were more prominent in her first two novels. The ones that truly connected you to the narrator so that you became invested in her struggle. Readers begin to see a bit more of it toward the end of the book, but its effect is dulled by the repetition of saying the same thing (albeit a few sentences re-phrased) in both narratives.
Similar to that, I found the immense amount of detail surrounding every character’s activities to be incredibly distracting. She blinked, coughed, sat, sipped her coffee, ate a cinnamon roll, loved the cinnamon roll, felt sick, pulled out her chair, got out her car keys, unlocked the door, got into the car, etc. There comes a point where you must trust your readers’ ability to infer. If you do your job well, which Taylor does often do, we don’t need the play-by-play. You lead us, and we will stay on the path you set us on.
As a whole, the story did keep me reading, and quite quickly, because Taylor does have a solid grip on the ebbs and flows of conflict and resolution. I found the book fun, enjoyed watching the relationships develop and unfold (though, again, trust us to infer how strong some bonds are rather than telling us more than a few times), and overall feel like it was a light, easy read.
Because I love Taylor, I do want to part with some closing lines pulled from MIAL. These were the glimpses of the raw, emotional talent readers were first introduce to in Forever, Interrupted.
“We have to face those consequences head on, for better or worse. We don’t get to erase them just by saying we didn’t mean to. Fate or not, our lives are still the results of our choices. I’m starting to think that when we don’t own them, we don’t own ourselves.”
I’ll be first in line for book 4.
Have you read Maybe in Another Life yet? I definitely recommend you do to see what kind of insight you can garner from it.
And make sure to follow Taylor online. She’s super social and responsive!