Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Life After Life (after life after life)

I have a lot of stories that begin with, "I stopped in at the library ..." and this is one of them.  I usually go in to check their book sale room.  This time I saw A God in Ruins on the new fiction shelf.  Just out in May of 2015, and I could walk out with it, no waiting, no cost, three weeks, all mine.  So, of course, I did.  The only issue?  You have to, or should, read Life After Life first, because A God in Ruins is a companion piece and I was afraid it wouldn't make sense to read them in the wrong order, or to read one without the other.

It's no spoiler to say that this book has a unique structure.  Ursula Todd lives her life over and over again, with circumstances changing slightly or greatly from time to time.  It takes her quite a few tries to live past childhood.  That she makes a probably successful attempt on Hitler's life is revealed on the second page.  The rest of the book is, more or less, explaining how and why she got to that point.

The mechanism behind the repeat lives is never explained, it doesn't need to be.  There are some marvelously dark humorous vignettes, particularly centered around the Spanish Influenza epidemic.  Ursula's growing awareness of her looping lives is a neat aspect of the plot.  The actual "larger picture" is not defined - I have my theory of what happens and why, but I suspect that it doesn't match up with others' ideas or even the author's, necessarily.  But more on that with the next book!    

I have Life After Life as an ebook.  I recommend tackling this with a paper copy.  I would love to have been able to flip back and forth through the sections easily.  Each begins with a date and sometimes it's easy to forget when and where you are.

The few glaring loose ends turn out to be mostly addressed in A God in Ruins.

Final call:

I'm actually really tempted to bump this up to five stars.  But I'm withholding that final star, well, because, you'll see.

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