I wasn’t sure I was going to like this at first since it starts off pretty dark and has a topic close to home since someone I know has taken their own life recently. However, I’m glad I continued on with this because the message at the end is a good one, and the book itself was cathartic in a lot of ways since I sometimes struggle with my own demons and regrets.
This is about a woman who’s basically got nothing left. Her family is mostly dead or estranged, her friends are non-existent, and no love life to speak of. She’s lonely, depressed, and she doesn’t enjoy much of anything except for her cat…. who is also now dead. She decides to take her own life and what she ends up doing is visiting a purgatory of sorts. In the middle of a life-death tightrope walk, her brain manifests a library, and in that library there are different lives she could have lived if she had just chosen a few things differently. Some of these lives are VASTLY different from the one she’s living now, and others only have minor changes…. but none of them feel quite right.
As the book goes on, she “tries on” more and more alternate life possibilities but isn’t coming up with anything that makes her happy. The librarian tells her that to return to the library, she has to be truly unhappy or dissatisfied with the life she’s chosen to try out, and then she gets to try another one… but she can’t ever try the same one twice. The idea is to find a life she wants to live and potentially stay there.
Each life she learns something new, and it’s usually painful. The choices she thinks she regrets… well it turns out even if she had become famous, or a champion swimmer, or devoted to her philosophy studies… in each life there are unintended consequences and downsides to each success. For each victory there’s a different sort of defeat… sometimes family members are living or dead depending on which life she chooses and it can be traumatic and painful to relive certain memories or interact with certain people. In her real life both parents are dead… but that’s not always the case in these new lives. In her real life her brother is alive but estranged from her… but again, there are other lives where they are great friends, or those where he’s dead.
I found her to be an extremely compelling character and since this is a single POV book we really get an amazing deep dive into her personality. I love philosophy, it’s not something I’ve touched on really since college since it never served a purpose in my real life, but I took a few courses and enjoyed studying it back in the day… so it was a nice trip down memory lane since the MC loves philosophy as well. The whole book had a heady sort of ending where it really makes you ponder about life the universe and everything long after you set the book down. I can say that this one will stick with me for a while.
The pacing and writing were great, I simply flew through this book. It has a very chapter like feel to it and you can set it down after each adventure she has in a new life, so it could serve well for a book you read before bed — or you could read it in just one sitting like I did. It’s not terribly long and the audiobook is simply fantastic, highly recommended.
- Plot: 12/15
- Character: 13.5/15
- World Building: 11/15
- Writing: 12/15
- Pacing: 12.5/15
- Originality: 11/15
- Enjoyment: 8.5/10
Final Score: 80.5/100