By: Kate Hope Day
Published Year: 2019
Publisher: Random House
I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way shape or form influenced my opinion.
Summary (Provided by Goodreads): The residents of a sleepy mountain town are rocked by troubling visions of an alternate reality in this dazzling debut that combines the family-driven suspense of Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere with the inventive storytelling of The Immortalists.
In the quiet haven of Clearing, Oregon, four neighbors find their lives upended when they begin to see themselves in parallel realities. Ginny, a devoted surgeon whose work often takes precedence over her family, has a baffling vision of a beautiful co-worker in Ginny’s own bed and begins to doubt the solidity of her marriage. Ginny’s husband, Mark, a wildlife scientist, sees a vision that suggests impending devastation and grows increasingly paranoid, threatening the safety of his wife and son. Samara, a young woman desperately mourning the recent death of her mother and questioning why her father seems to be coping with such ease, witnesses an apparition of her mother healthy and vibrant and wonders about the secrets her parents may have kept from her. Cass, a brilliant scholar struggling with the demands of new motherhood, catches a glimpse of herself pregnant again, just as she’s on the brink of returning to the project that could define her career.
At first the visions are relatively benign, but they grow increasingly disturbing—and, in some cases, frightening. When a natural disaster threatens Clearing, it becomes obvious that the visions were not what they first seemed and that the town will never be the same.
The title was actually what initially drew me to this book. A few years ago, Idina Menzel and Adam Rapp were in a musical by the same name that dealt with what direction would your life go if you made one different decision. Two stories ran simultaneously, one that followed the characters after decision A, the other after decision B. I loved the concept, so when I saw this book I thought it could be something similar. I read the summary and saw that it was about alternate realities (although not in the same way as the musical) and was immediately intrigued).
What I thought
I was so highly disappointed by this book. If you do not enjoying negative reviews, just scroll to the end to get my rating and wrap up summary.
If/Then follows 4 main characters; Ginny, her husband Mark, and their neighbors Cass and Samara. Ginny is the chief of surgery and is never home, leaving Mark to raise their pre-teen son Noah. Cassie is the mother to a newborn and her husband is away on a research trip. Samara has just lost her mother and is trying to figure out where her life should be. One day, Ginny sees another version of herself lying in bed, not with her husband, but with a female nurse that she works with. Mark, Samara, and Cass also start to see alternate realities of themselves and their loved ones. No one knows why, but Mark gets a feeling that something terrible is about to happen.
Basically, I have a few major issues with this book so I will try to express them in the clearest and nicest way possible. Issue number one is the reason that everyone starts seeing alternate realities. To me, it was such a let down. It was something I immediately guessed and kept hoping that maybe it wouldn’t be the explanation I was expecting but then it was and just, ugh. I also thought there would be more to do with the alternate realities, while in actuality the visions were few and far between. I also completely did not understand the point of Samara. She could’ve been taken out of the story with little to no consequence. I’m not saying I didn’t like her, but when you have so much going on with so many characters already, why throw in another one who really doesn’t bring anything to the story?
I feel like if Samara had been taken out of the story, it could’ve resolved another one of my issues which is that because of the jumping around, I never felt like I got a good understanding or connection with most of the characters. This made it hard to be sympathetic toward their actions and resulted in me not liking most of them.
There was one twist to the story that I did enjoy, but then just confused me even more. But I think the confusion with that was more along the lines of sometimes thinking about alternate universes making my head hurt and not the actual twist.