BOOK REVIEW: This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub

Title: This Time Tomorrow

Author: Emma Straub

Audiobook Length: 8 hours and 31 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction, Time Travel, Contemporary, Magical Realism

Read Start Date: October 1, 2022

Read Finish Date: October 4, 2022 

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: With her celebrated humor, insight, and heart, beloved New York Times bestseller Emma Straub offers her own twist on traditional time travel tropes, and a different kind of love story.

On the eve of her 40th birthday, Alice’s life isn’t terrible. She likes her job, even if it isn’t exactly the one she expected. She’s happy with her apartment, her romantic status, her independence, and she adores her lifelong best friend. But her father is ailing, and it feels to her as if something is missing. When she wakes up the next morning she finds herself back in 1996, reliving her 16th birthday. But it isn’t just her adolescent body that shocks her, or seeing her high school crush, it’s her dad: the vital, charming, 40-something version of her father with whom she is reunited. Now armed with a new perspective on her own life and his, some past events take on new meaning. Is there anything that she would change if she could?

My Review: I liked this book, but I wouldn’t say I loved it. After a few too many drinks on the eve of Alice’s 40th birthday, she finds herself passing out in the guardhouse of her childhood home. The next morning she wakes up on her sixteenth birthday, in her sixteen year old body, but with her forty year old mind. She has the chance to do it all over again — the infamous night when she didn’t hook up with the “one that got away.” What strikes Alice about her sixteen year old self, is her forty year old father, who is, in the present day, dying. He seems so young, so full of life, and she finds herself just wanting to be close to him. To spend time with him.

Nevertheless, Alice goes to the party, sleeps with the one that got away, and wakes up on her 40th birthday to find that she is now married (to the one who (previously) got away) with children. What I didn’t like about this reiteration of Alice is that she almost despises her children. She has no memory of the past 24 years of her “new” life, which I find strange — wouldn’t she have remembered both time lines? Since she has no memories of her children, she feels no connection with them. She doesn’t feel like their mother, and so, she doesn’t want to be their mother. She doesn’t want the life with the husband she must love, right? Did Alice at 39 and 364 days love her family and then when she wakes up at 40 she is a different person (because she doesn’t remember her new past)? This just doesn’t square with me.

Anyway, Alice goes back in time again and does it all over again and again trying on new lives like new jackets. Each time she doesn’t remember how she got there — she is perpetually the original Alice in a new life she doesn’t remember living. Then she compares her old life with the aspects of the new life and makes a determination about which life is better — I don’t think this is a fair comparison. She has no memories, no emotions, etc. of her new timeline. How can she really judge which is best?

While it was nice that she got to spend time with her father again and again in the past, I was ultimately dissatisfied with the ending. I won’t go into too much detail, but it felt like the book was about a futile journey. Since the father didn’t remember each timeline, the only one developing a longer, lasting relationship was Alice. And what happened from the age of 16 to 40 in the timeline she chose last? All of the new memories she would have had with her father, anything she started to build on the do-over night of her 16th birthday, was just nonexistent in her mind.

As of the writing of this post, This Time Tomorrow has a 3.83 rating on Goodreads, which seems to mean that it has mixed reviews. So I guess on this one, I’m not that far off the mark with my assessment. Nevertheless, I think that if you like time traveling stories with themes of father-daughter relationships, then this book is for you.

BOOK REVIEW: One Italian Summer by Rebecca Serle

58438583Title: One Italian Summer

Author: Rebecca Serle

Audiobook Length: 6 hours and 21 minutes

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Genre: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Magical Realism

Read Start Date: July 1, 2022

Read Finish Date: July 3, 2022

Brief Summary of the Plot from Goodreads: When Katy’s mother dies, she is left reeling. Carol wasn’t just Katy’s mom, but her best friend and first phone call. She had all the answers and now, when Katy needs her the most, she is gone. To make matters worse, their planned mother-daughter trip of a lifetime looms: two weeks in Positano, the magical town Carol spent the summer right before she met Katy’s father. Katy has been waiting years for Carol to take her, and now she is faced with embarking on the adventure alone.

But as soon as she steps foot on the Amalfi Coast, Katy begins to feel her mother’s spirit. Buoyed by the stunning waters, beautiful cliffsides, delightful residents, and, of course, delectable food, Katy feels herself coming back to life.

And then Carol appears—in the flesh, healthy, sun-tanned, and thirty years old. Katy doesn’t understand what is happening, or how—all she can focus on is that she has somehow, impossibly, gotten her mother back. Over the course of one Italian summer, Katy gets to know Carol, not as her mother, but as the young woman before her. She is not exactly who Katy imagined she might be, however, and soon Katy must reconcile the mother who knew everything with the young woman who does not yet have a clue .

My Review: “If your mother is the love of your life, what does that make your husband?”

The above quote is pretty much the reason why Katy is such an unrelatable character. After Katy’s mother dies, Katy is left heartbroken, so much so, that she contemplates leaving her loving, devoted, supportive husband. I was a little turned off by Katy’s treatment of her husband. She is so mean to him — he seems like a very sympathetic character and she just comes off as a total jerk. I don’t understand why the death of her mother would make her question whether she loved her husband AT ALL…there didn’t seem to be any issues in the marriage. It was just weird.

I mean look, I’ve been there. My brother died and I started to question why I bothered to stay married, but that was because I had a bad marriage and my thinking was, you can be snatched from this world at a moments notice, why spend any day unhappy? So I understand the concept that the author is trying to get at, but the execution just fell flat.

At only 30% through the book, I was already annoyed at the author’s repetitiveness. We get it, Katy loved her mother. It’s literally like the ONLY thing Katy talks about. Maybe this is “true to life”, but a book editor once told me in a critique of the book I am currently writing — works of fiction are NOT real life. Maybe it would really happen that way in real life, but this is not real life, this is FICTION! Katy’s one emotion gets REALLY boring and honestly it takes away from the storyline.

SPOILER ALERT:

Okay, so after Katy tells her husband she might want a divorce, she goes on the Italian vacation that she and her mother already had booked before her mother’s death. While in Italy she RUNS INTO HER MOTHER (not a look alike, but her actual mother)…………………….seriously? So what, Katy time traveled back to when her mother was 30 years old? But how does that work? Does the Mom not realize there are things such as cell phones now…does Katy not have access to these electronics? Is this woman just a figment of her imagination? I’m so confused and not in a good way. By the end of the book we realize that Katy has stepped back 30 years into the past, but sorry, how does she not notice this? The hair, the clothing styles…there is nothing similar between 1992 and 2022!!

And conveniently Katy leaves her cell phone in the safe for the ENTIRE VACATION, so she doesn’t notice that it isn’t working because cell towers / phone etc haven’t been invented yet.

After having finished the book, I did not like it anymore than I had at 30%. The whole time traveling thing just doesn’t make sense. Katy clearly screws with the timeline, but this is not addressed in the book. I guess the author meant it not to be sci-fi or whatever, and instead meant for Katy to have this vacation with her mother and discover things about her mother and herself, etc…but come on. As a sci-fi reader, there was just too much wrong with this premise for me to enjoy it.

Also, Katy seems to just be annoyed that her mother was, I don’t know, a PERSON? Katy expected that her mother’s “true love” would also be Katy and that her mother was as obsessed with Katy as Katy was with her mother — but it seems more like Katy just has an unhealthy attachment and her mother is normal. And of course Katy cheats on her husband — but does it count since technically her husband was a baby at the time (she did it 30 years in the past?). Sigh.

Other than the above, the book was entertaining at least, and the writing wasn’t bad. It just could have been so much better. So, I can in good conscious give it 3 stars.