Genres: Adult, Contemporary
Published by Simon and Schuster on July 7th 2015
Also by this author: After I Do, One True Loves, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, Evidence of the Affair, Daisy Jones and The Six
Format: Paperback (352 pages) • Source: Gift
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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 guestroom. 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.
To be totally honest, it’s going to be hard to explain just how much I loved and appreciated this book. I absolutely could not stop reading. I say that about a lot of books, but I had to pull myself away multiple times because I was determined to stretch the wonderfulness out into more than just one huge sitting. It’s the kind of book where you really want to savor every word and write down every single line in a quote notebook.
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of parallel universe books, especially if they’re in the form of a decision that splits the book in two. You get to see how the two alternate worlds play out as a result of that choice and see how the book ends. Did the decision eventually lead to the same end result? Or did things turn out totally different in both worlds? This is such a fascinating concept to me: the idea of fate and destiny vs. decisions impacting outcomes. Is everything pre-planned? Will we always end up in the same spot regardless of our choices? Or does each individual choice impact us in some way, creating an alternate universe (or millions of them) where each decision is played out in a completely different way? I’ll probably write a deeper dive into this at some point because I feel like I talk about it so much. But, moral of the story is: I knew this book was going to become a favorite before I even started it. (And I was totally right.)
The book starts out with Hannah, a 29 year old woman who has moved from city to city after college, moving “home” to Los Angeles. She lives with her best friend, Gabby, and her husband, Mark. On one of her first nights back, they have a get-together with old friends at a bar. Her ex-boyfriend from high school (that she always thought she was meant to be with) is there, and they hit it off again. The book splits into two timelines: Hannah heading home with Ethan or Hannah leaving with Gabby and Mark. When the synopsis says there are “stunningly different results,” it ain’t kidding.
I think this is a pretty impossible review to write without giving away major spoilers, because some pretty intense differences happen within the first quarter of the book. I really think it’s best to enter this story with zero plot-related expectations. Let’s just stay, some crazy shit happens in both. Without giving anything away, I’ll tell you that I was utterly swept away in both timelines. I was nervous that it would be confusing, but it really wasn’t. Previous stories like this that I’ve read usually include a chapter heading that explains which decision the chapter is about, but this one didn’t have or need any. I also loved how quickly it moved between chapters because they were somewhat short – just enough to get going and usually give you a little cliffhanger for the next time that timeline would come around. I also loved how there were always little events or conversations that alluded to things happening in the other timeline. Different THINGS (no spoilers) happening gave both Hannah and Gabby new ideas/theories about love and fate and the idea of “meant to be.”
I loved every single aspect of this book, but here are a few key parts that I want to highlight:
The friendship between Gabby and Hannah was amazing. No matter what mistakes either one of them made, they were supportive and loving towards each other. I truly think the two of them are soulmates – screw any of the men in the book. Gabby’s family was equally supportive to Hannah; they even let her live with them to finish high school in LA while Hannah’s family moved to London. That brings me to my next point…
Hannah’s family is given the chance to live in London when her younger sister is offered a prestigious ballet position over there. Hannah goes to college and then moves all around the country in the years afterwards. She never feels like she has a home because her family isn’t even that country. London is THEIR home, not hers. When they come into the picture during the two timelines, Hannah has to try to figure things out with them. They aren’t really her support system in many ways. I felt Hannah’s pain while talking with her parents; she really felt almost uncomfortable with them after missing out on so many years. My heart broke for all of them.
Obviously the main feature of the book involves what happens to Hannah when she makes either decision that night. It’s funny because Hannah is indecisive about everything else too. Even making small decisions takes her a while! The one thing she’s sure about is cinnamon rolls. Everyone knows her as someone who is absolutely obsessed with cinnamon rolls and that definitely doesn’t change between timelines.
I really loved her as a character. I found a lot of similarities between the two of us. Between the large chest (sorry not sorry) and the memorization of small details, we would be two peas in a pod. Hannah mentions that she has a knack for remembering every person she meets and creeping them out when they (re)introduce themselves to her. This happens to me ALL the time. I have to say, Hannah handles it better than I do. Usually I’m a bitch and tell them we’ve met before (no one likes to feel forgettable!).
The synopsis has you wondering: does Hannah find that she has two different soulmates? Or does she still end up with the same person in each, regardless of the path she took to get there? I’m not telling. You have to find out for yourself. I was pleasantly surprised by the ending. Truly the only “issue” I had with this book was the fact that whenever someone said “okay” it was spelled “OK.” I know it’s a word, but I just hate that spelling. I want the full word, OKAY?
“Life is long and full of an infinite number of decisions. I have to think that the small ones don’t matter, that I’ll end up where I need to end up no matter what I do, my fate will find me.”
“The difference between life and death could be as simple and as uncomfortably slight as a step you take in either direction. Which means that I am here today, alive today, because I made the right choices, however brief and insignificant they felt at the time. I made the right choices.”
“I think I’ll feel better if things are meant to be. It gets me off the hook, doesn’t it? If things are meant to be, it means I don’t have to worry so much about consequences and mistakes. I can take my hands off the wheel. Believing in fate is like living on cruise control.”
“I think I have to believe that life will work out the way it needs to. If everything that happens in the world is just a result of chance and there’s no rhyme or reason to any of it, that’s just too chaotic for me to handle. I’d have to go around questioning every decision I’ve ever made, every decision I will ever make. If our fate is determined with every step we take… it’s too exhausting. I’d prefer to believe that things happen as they are meant to happen.”
“…I know there are many universes out there where I made different choices that led me somewhere else, let me to someone else. And my heart breaks for every single version of me that didn’t end up with you.”