From the Nightstand: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

The novel Life After Life by Kate Atkinson asks the question all of us ask ourselves from time to time: How might my life be different if I had (or had not) …? Ursula Todd is born and dies over and over again. In some of her lives, Ursula has vague “memories” of people and events from her other lives that sometimes shape the decisions she makes. Each of her lives starts out the same, with the same parents and similar starting conditions, but differs in some significant way, e.g., dying shortly after birth; drowning or being saved at age four; contracting Spanish flu from the maid, or not (in one version the maid goes to the event where she contracts flu; in another Ursula pushes her down the stairs so she can’t go); being raped, or not, by her brother’s friend at age sixteen. The different choices and events (some of which seem small at first) have profound repercussions in her life as well as in history (in several lives, Ursula befriends Eva Braun). It’s a beautifully written novel that makes the reader consider the profundities of what may seem like small decisions in the moment, as well as her own possible alternate histories. Highly recommended.

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