Every now and then, I travel down memory lane thinking about those with whom I once shared my growing years and wonder what has happened to them. Perhaps given a chance, it might be nice to meet them just to see what their life stories are after we parted ways but is it really wise? Quite often it is probably best that we leave our memories of them as they were. I am a late developer and I was going through my twenties with rose-tinted glasses, wide-eyed and full of optimism. I miss those years when I could just act on a whim or an impulse. As we grow older, we evolve and become pragmatic but not necessarily wise. We often romanticize the memory of what actually happened. No matter what reasons we gave for having parted whether mutually or unilaterally and if we had really meant for one another, we would have ended up together.
The story is very well written, this is how it begins.
23 December 1978
‘ There they go, at the beginning of it all, their younger selves, walking through the dark, winter streets of Sheffield : Daniel Lawrence and Alison Connor. He’s eighteen, she’s sixteen, it’s Saturday night and they’re heading to Kev Carter’s Christmas party, and nothing much has been said since he met her from the bus, but each is achingly conscious of the other.’
They were on their first date. Then the story is fast forwarded to October 2012 in Edinburgh where Dan is a journalist at a gig. ‘Dan never sat if he could stand. You should never sit at a gig; it wasn’t sodding theatre, it wasn’t cinema, it was music.’
Dan Lawrence is now married to Katelin and they have an eighteen-year-old son, Alex and they live in Edinburgh. One late night and it is 3 a.m. amidst a stream of tweets that appear in the feed and notifications from people with whom he barely connects and messages from people he actually knows, a new notification pops up that catches his attention. It’s from Kev Carter who alerts him to AliConnorWriter. Ali Connor is Alison Connor who is now a bestselling novelist, based in Adelaide, Australia. They are on opposite sides of the world. She is the one that got away thirty years ago.
Alison has two teenage daughters and married to Michael McCormack.They start communicating across the ocean and over thousands of miles their shared love for songs by sending each other links to songs. They go about their daily lives interacting with their families pretending that it is all harmless. They are transported to their shared history through music that resonates with them and find each other again.
The story is written in two alternating timelines. Daniel and Alison were from very different family backgrounds. Alison never allowed Daniel to send her home. She was living with an alcoholic mother and an older brother who was always looking out for her while Daniel lived a charmed life with a cosy loving middle-class family and a protective mother who had thought Alison was trouble.
In their present days, Dan deals with Katelin’s contempt for his chosen profession as a music journalist while Ali deals with her rebellious daughter and her husband’s arrogance and sense of entitlement that comes from being born with privileges and his belief that the family must follow what he says and he is not used to dissents. Alison ran away from where she was and met Michael while travelling with very little money that her brother, Peter had saved up for her and work along the way. She met Michael who was walking the Camino with ‘a loaded pack, strong boots, wet-weather gear, a tent, a sleeping mat’ who would be befitting as a mountaineer while she was the accidental pilgrim. Michael ‘ had a thick wad of traveller’s cheques in his money belt and an emergency private telephone number for the Australian Embassy in Madrid, where an old friend of his father was chargé d’affaires.’ He had rooms booked at hostels and refugios all the way from Le Puy to Santiago. So they met while walking to Santiago de Compostela.
The story tells you how Dan and Alison become separated completely. The characters are all vividly drawn, while I know nothing about the soundtracks, I cannot help getting invested in their stories as to how they have become separated for thirty years. Quite soon into the story , it is apparent that Dan and Alison are having their second chance and it is obvious that Dan will not let her get away a second time.
I am apprehensive about the ending of the story not because I expect a happy ending. Life is complicated. I wonder at what cost should one pursue his or her one chance of happiness if he or she could imagine exploring another life. Can you be happy if you make people whom you care and love sad and disappointed? Whatever it is, your past is an integral part of you as whatever you have experienced along the way makes you who you are today but when the past catches up with you, it can become complicated if you mix your past with your present life, it may become a botched-up tape. The one that got away can be alluring if he or she is still as charming as you remember.
Mix Tape by Jane Sanderson is well written and a commendable read.