July 10, 2015

What Led Me Here? {Maybe in Another Life Blog Tour}

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Release Date: July 7, 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster | Washington Square
Pages: 352 pages
Source & Format: NetGalley; e-ARC
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Summary (from Goodreads)
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. On the heels of leaving yet another city, Hannah moves back to her hometown of Los Angeles and takes up residence in her best friend Gabby’s guest room. Shortly after getting back to town, Hannah goes out to a bar one night with Gabby and meets up with her high school boyfriend, Ethan. Just after midnight, Gabby asks Hannah if she’s ready to go. A moment later, Ethan offers to give her a ride later if she wants to stay. Hannah hesitates. 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 radically different stories with large-scale consequences for Hannah, as well as the people around her. As the two alternate realities run their course, Maybe in Another Life raises questions about fate and true love: 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.

Thoughts on Maybe in Another Life
I read Forever, Interrupted and After I Do last year, and I haven't stopped raving about them since then. I've pushed After I Do on friends, family, co-workers, and possibly a few strangers... It made me look at my marriage in a new way - the kind of reading experience that has impacted me in a real and lasting way. It felt so personal that I didn't want to share it, and yet so meaningful that it seemed wrong to try to keep it to myself. It cemented Taylor Jenkins Reid as an auto-buy author for me, but it also made me nervous to read Maybe in Another Life. I knew Reid would tell an engaging story, but would she capture my heart?

Hannah Martin is twenty-nine and still trying to figure out what she wants to do in life. She never stays in the same city for long - always searching for that elusive place that will finally feel like home. She's got a difficult relationship with her family, her love life is in shambles, and she's headed back to her hometown of Los Angeles to move into her best friend Gabby's guest room. It's not exactly where she pictured herself at this point in her life. One night, she's presented with a seemingly trivial decision: go home with Gabby or catch a ride home later with her ex-boyfriend, Ethan? In concurrent storylines, Hannah lives out the effects of each decision.

Each of Reid's books has its own theme, its own heroine, its own story to tell. They're all separate, standalone novels - but they all seem to work so perfectly together. When I interviewed Reid last year, she talked about how she's always been drawn to heartbreak. She wrote, "Everyone has had their heartbroken. It just seems like such meaty place to start a book." To me, that's a huge thing all of her books have in common: they start in a moment of heartbreak. It's a different kind of heartbreak each time, but it makes for an emotional beginning.

I've never read anything quite like Maybe in Another Life, so it was a really refreshing story. I was a little worried before I started that I'd be confused by the dual storylines or that it would seem too gimmicky, but I shouldn't have been concerned about that for a second. Reid's two previous books also used dual narratives (though in different ways), and she navigated that structure again so deftly in this book. I was genuinely invested in both versions of Hannah's life, and it created the perfect amount of tension as I waited to see how it would all end. The best part? I could tell that I'd love it no matter how it was resolved.

I highlighted quote after quote while I was reading, which isn't surprising given how much I love Reid's writing. As soon as I pick up one of her books, I'm hooked. I love her characterization, and the way every single person feels like someone I might know. It's not just the heroine who shines - even the secondary characters are memorable! And I couldn't stop thinking about the fact that it never seems like I'm reading about the same character or type of person in any of her books, and yet I somehow feel like I can relate to aspects of every single one of them. To me, that's the mark of an author who understands people.

Speaking of people, Maybe in Another Life is dedicated to four of Taylor Jenkins Reid's best friends and "all of the other women I feel destined to have met." Honestly, I can't think of a more fitting way to start this book. Hannah's best friend Gabby is an incredibly important character in both versions of her life, and their friendship was one of my favorite aspects of the story. There's so much love between these two characters, and it was so powerful to see the way they supported each other. Sometimes friendship gets overshadowed by romance in fiction, but that's not the case in this book. While I wanted to know what would happen in Hannah's love life, I adored that it was a given that Gabby would be there for her through it all and in any circumstance.

I've noted so many reasons I loved this book - the structure, writing, plot, characters, relationships - but I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention the theme of fate vs. chance. When most people talk about life-changing decisions, I think they mean things like their choice of college or career path. But this book looks at it from a unique angle, and that's what made it feel so exciting to me. The decision that sets Hannah off on two separate paths is a tiny, inconsequential one. It's the kind of moment that you might even forget about making after a month or two - the exact opposite of what I'd picture if asked to name the things that led me to where I am today. And that's what made it so powerful for me. 
 
There's no point analyzing every past moment of your life because your present is happening right now. Maybe making another choice would have led you down a different path... but one version of your life doesn't have to be less than another. You can be happy where you are, love the people around you, and try the best you can to do what you think will lead you where you want to go. You can be you in any "version" of your life. Both versions of Hannah's life had joy and sorrow, love and loss - that's just part of being human.

Whether things are fated or happen by chance, I believe that you can control your attitude, the way you act and how you treat people. Because I'm not sure that the answer to fate vs. chance is what matters most. Either way, choices have consequences - but those decisions don't have to define you. And that's why I couldn't get the last two scenes out of my mind when I finished reading (in the best way). I loved every moment of this book, but I think the ending was my favorite. It may not work for everyone, but I was completely satisfied!

Maybe in Another Life is a book that will make you think and feel. It's a fun concept that's fleshed out in such a meaningful and memorable way, and I loved every minute I spent reading it. I'm so excited that I'm adding this to my "push it on everyone" pile! And once you read it, we've got to discuss it.

So Quotable
"I know there may be universes out there where I made different choices and they led me somewhere else, led me to someone else. And my heart breaks for every single version of me that didn't end up with you."

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review.

2 comments:

  1. My bff texted me about this book this morning and said I'm her "Gabby" - so of course I have to read it now!

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  2. I loved Maybe in Another Life. Not only does Reid's writing style shine, she has such great characters and themes in this tale! I really liked the way it had me reflecting on fate and free will afterwards :)

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