Review: The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett (debut)
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Length: 416 pages
Single Sentence Summary: Sparks fly when a couple has a chance encounter along a bike path at Cambridge, and we witness the rest of their lives playing out along three different routes.
Primary Characters: Jim – Student, attorney, artist, father, husband. Eva – Student, writer, mother, wife. Both characters are so much more than these few words. The story spans almost their entire lives and they were both richly developed characters.
Review/Synopsis: For me The Versions of Us was a beautiful, well thought out trifecta of a novel. Doesn’t everyone at some point wonder how different their life might be if they had made a different choice, met a different person, or picked a different path? Of course we wonder, we imagine, but we never really know. In The Versions of Us Laura Barnett has taken away the wondering and has imagined for us three different versions of two people’s lives. Jim and Eva have a chance encounter along a bike path while both are at Cambridge. The chemistry between them is unmistakable, but how they act on it and the rest of their lives play out in three different, but very closely related accounts. In one version they immediately fall in love, end relationships they were in, and start the process of building their life together. In another version they resist the chemistry and continue on the roads they were already on. In the third version, they fall in love instantly, begin a very serious relationship, but fate soon steps in to pull them apart. With each version Jim and Eva are the same people at the core, but each small change in the course of their lives drives other changes: children, partners, career success, happiness. What ties each version together is that spark of chemistry that is always present between the two. I’m not always a fan of love stories, but this is so much more than just a love story. It’s a well-crafted peek into the fates that drive two people’s lives. I truly loved this novel, but I know there are those who might find it a bit confusing at first. I admit that in first few chapters I did some flipping back and forth as I became familiar with the different versions (told in alternate chapters). It didn’t take long until I had them straight in my mind and was able to thoroughly enjoy the book. I was impressed with how the author always kept the characters true to themselves, and yet was able to play out their lives in such different ways. The Versions of Us is a wonderful first novel. I look forward to reading more from Laura Barnett. Grade: A
If you liked this book you might also enjoy:
- Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
- The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson
- The Hand that First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell
- The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver
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