For Those of You That Like Do-Overs

//For Those of You That Like Do-Overs

For Those of You That Like Do-Overs

Kate Atkinson’s hefty story, Life After Life, can make a reader dizzy, even while sitting in a solid, comfy chair.

It follows the life of Ursula Todd, a British banker’s daughter, born on a snowy night back in the days when people sang songs like “By the Light of the Silvery Moon.” The trick about this “life” of Ursula’s is that she dies and we go back to that snowy night, giving Ursula the chance to fix what went wrong. Then she dies again, and back we go.

Try not to doze while you read Atkinson. If you nod off, you’ll be lost when you blink awake and take up the story again. Wait. Who’s Nancy? Who’s Frieda?

In all these multiple lives, we follow the Todd family from their days of simple childhood tennis games through the more heady era of older brother bringing home his handsome school chums, to the wrapping-up scenes when the siblings divide up their deceased mother’s clocks and doilies.

Then, back again to that snowy night.

We follow Ursula from one war, when the neighbor’s soldier son comes home ruined by gas in his lungs, to another war, when Ursula and her London neighbors scramble into their bomb shelter outfitted with its castoff chairs and camp beds.

Then, back again to that snowy night.

One character I found easy to keep track of is Ursula’s party-girl aunt Isabelle. Aunt Izzie is the sort that can pull you out of a scrape and keep the whole thing quiet from your parents. She’s also the kind who can use you to advance her own ambitions.

Somewhere in here, the story takes a dogleg turn, sending Ursula to Germany where she meets the Fuhrer himself and his precious Eva.

Then, snowy night.

At times, Life After Life reads like characters programmed to speak us a history lesson.

I found it best to ride along like foam on busy waters.

Photo credit: drbexl via Visualhunt / CC BY-NC-SA

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By | 2017-09-17T19:21:45+00:00 September 17th, 2017|good fiction|0 Comments

About the Author:

Kristen Carson was born in Idaho. She has lived in Utah, Texas, Illinois and Pennsylvania. She currently resides near Indianapolis. She and her husband are the parents of four adult children. Carson's stories and articles have appeared in Chicago Parent, Indianapolis Monthly, and Dialogue: a Journal of Mormon Thought.

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