Book Nook – Life After Life

Last winter I started a book club.  I had been saying for ages that I wanted to be part of a book club, but I didn’t really know where to look to find one and the one full or random people I did find always met when I was working.  So I decided to start my own.  I suggested starting a book club when I was having coffee with a friend one day and she thought it was a great idea which provided me with encouragement because she didn’t laugh in my face, so to Facebook I went and Book Club was born.

We’re not hard core literary critics.  We’ve read seven books so far of varied subject matter and writing style.  I’ve definitely been exposed to some books I wouldn’t have picked up otherwise, and enjoyed them all.

My favorite of the books we’ve read was Life After Life by Kate Atkinson.  It’s about Ursula, a girl born in the middle of a snow storm in the early 1900s, and how if just one thing is different, it can affect her whole life.  Due to various unfortunate circumstances, Ursula meets several untimely ends, but she always starts her life over again, right back at the beginning, being born again during that same snow storm.  If one thing in her life is different, like an artist painting an ocean scene, she survives that incident, and continues on until the next problem.  She has multiple chances to get her life right.

Let’s just say it took her quite a few tries to survive the Spanish flu epidemic.

It’s such an interesting topic to me because sometimes I think about what my life would be like if one thing was different.  I’ve wondered where I would have ended up if my family hadn’t moved to a new province when I was ten and I had graduated high school with the same people I went to kindergarten with.  I never would have met my high school friends, and if I hadn’t met them, would I have gone to the same university?  What if my mom hadn’t gotten Alzheimer’s?  What if I never had cancer? Would I still be the same person?  Is there a parallel universe where all these different paths play out?

As the book goes on, Ursula develops somewhat of an awareness that she’s been in a particular situation before, almost like deja vu or intuition, and she is able to manipulate the situation to avoid a negative outcome.

In these months after Mom’s death, I find myself questioning some of  the choices I’ve made, and wondering if they were the right ones.  Sometimes I feel almost paralyzed by the weight being an adult and too stuck to do anything about any of it.  And then, because of my new awareness of mortality, I figure I should be living my life to the fullest and not wasting a moment because this is it.  There are no second chances.

I think that’s why I found this book so interesting.  I don’t think I believe getting a “do over” for life is possible, but imagine if it were?  Wouldn’t that take the pressure off getting it right the first time around?

I really enjoyed this book, and I just found out that Kate Atkinson has written a companion book called A God In Ruins, which chronicles the life of Ursula’s yonger brother, Teddy.  I can’t wait to read this one too!

In case anyone’s curious, our next book club read is Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick.  Apparently he’s the same guy who wrote The Silver Linings Playbook.  Should be interesting.

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