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A second chance at life

Sudbury Living Magazine June 8, 2017 Tina Siegal No Comments

 

REVIEW: THE POST-BIRTHDAY WORLD BY LIONEL SHRIVER

I dated someone several years ago. A musician. It didn’t work out, and there’s this one moment that I still think about sometimes because I’d like to go back and do it over. Do it better. See what was waiting down the road I didn’t take.

Truthfully, I doubt it would change anything much. But I want to know.

We all have those moments, right?

In Lionel Shriver’s The Post-Birthday World, Irina McGovern gets just such a do-over. The first few chapters follow her and her long-time partner Lawrence through a warm, well-worn relationship. At a crucial moment, Irina makes a decision which alters the course of her life. We see the consequences, and how Irina deals with them.

Then, when the chapter ends, we go back.

Shriver returns to that fateful choice, and allows Irina to try again. The next chapter shows us what happens when Irina chooses door number two. The chapter after that returns us to door number one.

And that’s how the rest of the book unfolds – each chapter alternating between the first reality and the second, and Irina’s place in them. Both are happy and sad, in their own ways, and there’s no way to tell which was the better choice – it’s like comparing apples to oranges, if you’ll forgive the laboured simile.

It isn’t spoiling much – but if you’re a purist about these things, skip the next two paragraphs – to say that Irina’s decision revolves around two men. In the beginning, I was certain I knew which one I’d choose (hint: it’s the sexy, raffish one).

I dated someone several years ago. A musician. It didn’t work out, and there’s this one moment that I still think about sometimes because I’d like to go back and do it over. Do it better. See what was waiting down the road I didn’t take.

Truthfully, I doubt it would change anything much. But I want to know.

We all have those moments, right?

In Lionel Shriver’s The Post-Birthday World, Irina McGovern gets just such a do-over. The first few chapters follow her and her long-time partner Lawrence through a warm, well-worn relationship. At a crucial moment, Irina makes a decision which alters the course of her life. We see the consequences, and how Irina deals with them.

Then, when the chapter ends, we go back.

Shriver returns to that fateful choice, and allows Irina to try again. The next chapter shows us what happens when Irina chooses door number two. The chapter after that returns us to door number one.

And that’s how the rest of the book unfolds – each chapter alternating between the first reality and the second, and Irina’s place in them. Both are happy and sad, in their own ways, and there’s no way to tell which was the better choice – it’s like comparing apples to oranges, if you’ll forgive the laboured simile.

It isn’t spoiling much – but if you’re a purist about these things, skip the next two paragraphs – to say that Irina’s decision revolves around two men. In the beginning, I was certain I knew which one I’d choose (hint: it’s the sexy, raffish one).

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