Sliding Doors

I enjoy watching films and reading fictions premised on alternate or parallel universe. I have a penchant for books that talk about choices and destiny and I do not think that what is meant to be meant to be. I am drawn to fictions that are written based on the concept of love, chance and fate and how a single decision can lead to different outcome that not only affects the protagonist but also the characters around her. I have always believed that everything is inter-related as the world and its inhabitants are connected somehow.

Here are some of the fictions that I had read and blogged in Coffee, Chocolate or Tennis, a blog that I started in January 2011.

Maybe in Another Life written by Taylor Jenkins Reid is a fiction that depicts how different consequences follow when the protagonist makes a different decision at a certain point of her life. At the age of twenty-nine, Hannah Marie Martin still has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She has lived and held countless jobs in six different cities. She decides to go back to her roots in Los Angeles after having  a disastrous relationship with a  man who is  already married.  To celebrate her first night back, her best friend, Gabby takes her out to a bar where she bumps into her high school boyfriend, Ethan whom she still has feelings for. The story is about what happens if she goes home with Gabby and what happens if she does not go home with Gabby. Maybe in Another Life is about how Hannah’s decision can result in different stories  in two parallel universes. The point is, a different decision brings about a different outcome, it  thus prompts the questions  :  Is much of our life determined by chance ? Is there only one soul-mate?
One of the characters in the novel says,”And I was reading about different theories about the universe. I was really taken with this one theory that states that everything that is possible happens. That means that when you flip a quarter, it doesn’t come down heads or tails. It comes up heads and tails. Every time you flip a coin and it comes up heads , you are merely in the universe where the coin came up heads. There is another version of you out there, created the second the quarter flipped, who saw it come up tails. This is happening every second of every day. The world is splitting further and further into an infinite number of parallel universes where everything that could happen is happening .This is completely plausible, by the way. It is a legitimate interpretation of quantum mechanics. It’s entirely possible that every time we make a decision, there is a version of us out there somewhere who made a different choice. An infinite number of versions of ourselves are living out the consequences of every single possibility in our lives. What I’m getting in at here is that I know there may be universes out there where I made different choices that led me somewhere else, led me to someone else. “

He looks at Gabby. “And my heart breaks for every single version of me that didn’t end up with you.”

 In concurrent storylines, Taylor Jenkins Reid explores the concepts of fate and chance and offers two alternate realities.Maybe in Another Life is a fun read that I read several years ago.

Vevey December 2012

The Versions of Us is Laura Barnett’s debut novel that works on the theme that there could be different versions of us that might lead to  alternate endings. The novel reads like three different novellas about the same protagonists. The novel is best read in one seating as it makes reading easier when the different versions simultaneously unfold the different paths taken by the protagonists , Eva Edelstein and Jim Taylor. When I read it in between my work and activities that needed attention, I found myself revisiting the previous pages to refresh my memory in order to  get a clear view of the version I was reading as I swapped from one version to another .  Eva  and Jim Taylor are essentially the same people in all three versions. Eva is an easy to like character as she is sensible and strong. Eva becomes a writer while Jim is a solicitor turned painter and artist ;their stories began when they were nineteen and university students at Cambridge. 


In version one, as Eva swerves to miss a small dog, her bicyle hits a nail and the tyre is punctured. Jim passes by and offers to mend it and they fall in love. Eva breaks off with David, the boyfriend she has and marries Jim.
Later , Eva will think, If it hadn’t been for that rusty nail, Jim and I would never have met.
In version two,  Eva’s bike narrowly misses a dog which skitters towards her  and she is all shaken when she stops.  Jim asks if she is alright.
‘Are you all right there?’ Another man was approaching from the opposite direction : a boy, really , about her age, a college scarf looped loosely over his tweed jacket.

‘ Quite all right, thank you,’  she said primly. Their eyes met briefly as she remounted- his an uncommonly dark blue, framed by long, girlish lashes –for a second she was sure she knew him, so sure that she opened her mouth to frame a greeting . But then, just as quickly, she doubted herself , said nothing, and pedaled on. As soon as she arrived at Professor Farley’s rooms and began to read out her essay on the Four Quartets, the whole thing slipped from her mind. 
In version two, Eva marries David.
In version three, Eva’s bike hits the nail and Jim helps fix  the puncture. She ends up falling for Jim but she decides to do the right thing by marrying David, her boyfriend then. She subsequently finds herself unhappy in her marriage. On New Year’s Eve, David, an actor and Eva attend  a party  at the Hancock Park Home of David’s agent in Los Angeles.
Eva stands alone, drinking champagne, looking down at her hateful pink dress. She has an uncomfortable vision, suddenly, of her entire relationship with David as an unspooling sequence of these moments, a shifting film-strip of inappropriate dresses,worn to parties at which she knows no one.’
I have always been fascinated by themes about chance,coincidences and the big question of ‘what if’. Are our lives  pre-ordained or the result of random meaningless encounters or serendipitous moments? Every decision and choice we have made maps  the course of our lives. Some moments  do change everything. Whatever knocks and hitches we face along the bumpy roads of life may or may not be the  consequences of our choices. We can only hope that these hiccups help us to become better people.

Barnett’s debut novel cleverly explores the nature of love and the possibilities about how there might be some moments when our lives could have taken a different course. The author gives us three possible versions of what possibly happens in the future for the protagonists. 

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 If, then by Kate Hope Day, is a page turner. I thoroughly enjoyed the multiverse theme and what if there is another parallel universe premise but I was a little disappointed how the story ended as I had expected more from the plot. Perhaps it is just like real life, there are possibilities and there is no resolution. I do believe that certain connections are not coincidental and there are dreamlike experience that are too surreal to explain.  Too many unknowns beyond us. The title is apt and the story works.
The story is about four families who live  in Clearing, a small town lying in  the shadow of a dormant volcano in Oregon.  Many believe that Broken Mountain is quite a dormant volcano but Mark, a wildlife scientist does not think so. He foresees an imminent and devastating natural disaster. Cass Stuart, a brilliant PhD student struggles with the demands of caring  for her baby wants to resume her research on the theory of everything and the possibility of a multiverse. She envisages herself pregnant once more. Samara, a realtor who is mourning the death of her mother starts seeing glimpses of her mother alive again.
Mark is married to Ginny who is a busy surgeon. Ginny is so into her work that she feels disconnected from her own family and start seeing glimpses of herself with a beautiful colleague in her kitchen.  Cass, Ginny and Mark starts seeing glimpses of different versions of themselves and when  Broken Mountain awakens nearby and these visions mean more than they appear to.
The story had me from its first paragraph that reads:
THE EARTH TREMBLES. She tastes metal. That’s how it starts on a moonless Sunday in Clearing, Oregon, in the shadow of the dormant volcano locals call Broken Mountain.     Just after 10:00p.m. Ginny stands at the bathroom sink, a toothbrush in one hand and a paperback in the other. She  always reads like this, in minutes parceled out from her packed days – in the bathroom after everyone has gone to bed, or parked in her car when she gets to the hospital a little early. The heat whirls in the vent. She considers staying up to read another chapter. Her husband, Mark, is already asleep in the next room.  Her pager buzzes from the bedroom and she retrieves it from her bedside table. A series of familiar numbers scrolls across the tiny backlit screen. The emergency room. “ Damn.”’

The story moves at a good pace and great characterization allows you to imagine the characters  in a suburban neighbourhood. If, Then the debut novel by Kate Hope Day is an engaging read and its premise is fascinating.

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