Welcome to Third Thursday Staff Recommendations! We are starting a new blog featuring staff member reviews of their favorites books. Our fearless Director Ryan Johnson volunteered to be the first. Thank you, Ryan.
When asked to write a book recommendation, my mind instantly jumped to Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. This is not even my favorite book (although it’s probably in the top five). I think this book leapt to mind because it’s a perfect read for winter, and well, winter is practically here.
If I had to describe this book in two words, those two words would be utterly fascinating. If I had to give a third, separate word, it would be haunting. The core concept of this book is that the main character, Ursula, is instantly reborn every time she dies. Not reincarnation exactly, because she is reborn into essentially the same exact setting; same time, same place. Over the course of these rebirths Ursula develops “intuitions” about certain details from her previous lives. She is never exactly the same person in these lives either. Sometimes Ursula is the hero, sometimes the victim, sometimes she dies old, at others she dies young. Regardless, it all starts over on the day of her birth as snow falls gently from the sky.
I was reminded a lot of Stephen King’s 11/22/63 while reading this book. The mechanisms are different, but some concepts are similar. In both the main character is challenged with opportunities to “redo” history. What does one choose to do with such an opportunity? What weight anchors these decisions? It’s fun to read about, and fun to think about.
A major takeaway, for me at least, is that there is no perfect life. Even with multiple attempts at the same life, Ursula never finds “perfection.” If she can’t do it, how can we expect to?