What I'm Reading
We don't get to choose another path in real life but we have all thought about what would happen if...This is what this book is about.
A little girl sees variations of her life and those connected to her in sunbeams: those shafts of light that harbour twinkling dust particles. A great concept that we can all identify with. She has an accident where she dies, but has the choice to hop into a sunbeam where she survives and one where the accident never happened at all. Her life and those of her parents pan out on the various routes.
The story shows that her parents are always her parents although some of the neighbours' lives are not the same. There are other constants as well. Her father's employer goes missing and everyone suffers some kind of grief, loneliness and loss, the desire for children and family.
At the beginning, the 'alternative path' sunbeams is an enchanting experience but as the girl grows up she stops seeing them. Then we are left with fairly mundane lives concerning meeting people, getting married, committing adultery, yearning. It is a relief when she dies again. There are delicate touches of alternative history, such as Margaret Thatcher never becoming prime minister, Neil Kinnock being a popular prime minister instead, and electric kettles not being efficient in each world.
Eventually the lives become connected and fragmented and, unusually for supernatural stories like this, she goes to see a therapist to try to make sense of everything. The counsellor does a bit of sleuthing and discovers that things are not entirely in her imagination.
The ideas behind this book are engaging but the focus becomes clear partway through. This is a study of bereavement and how people deal with it - 'I live in a world of loss'. Sometimes escaping into the 'alternative path' is enough. Sometimes not. An original book in many ways, thoughtful and sadly fatalistic, the ideas will stick around after the book is closed. Recommended.
Published by HQ 11 July 2019. Advanced reader copy supplied by the publisher.