As Alice Stern approaches her fortieth birthday she feels unsatisfied with her life and is at a point where she is not sure why or how it happened. Her father, who she is immensely close with, is in the hospital with an unknown illness; her work keeps her busy, but the job does not utilize her education or training and makes her feel embarrassed; her relationship is at the point of moving to the next step, her boyfriend is preparing to propose, but she realizes their relationship is not destined for anything long term; and she adores her best friend, Sam, but rarely sees her because Sam lives an hour away and is a busy working mother of three.
On the night of her birthday, Alice meets Sam for dinner, but due to a family emergency Sam departs mid-way through the meal, leaving Alice solo for the evening. She ends up visiting a bar, and thanks to the generosity of the bartender, drinks too much. To finish the night she ends up in her old neighborhood, and due to her level of intoxication, passes out in a storage building on her father’s property. When she awakes the following morning she is in her childhood bed and things are not quite right. She quickly realizes that she is sixteen and today is her birthday.
What a shock her sixteen year old self is to her upon her waking. She wonders how her younger self could not have noticed how flawless her skin was and how glowing and alive she felt. And most importantly, when was her dad ever that young and healthy?
Soon she is having to make important, possibly life-altering decisions, without any guidance or help. At the top of the list is what to do during the day. Should she live it as she did originally or mix it up? Should she simply enjoy the time she has with her healthy and vibrant father or try to alter the events of the day and her birthday party, so she, and possibly her father, can have a different future?
While the beginning of the book takes a bit of setup, and might feel slow to some readers, my advice is to stick with it. This ended up being one of my favorite books of the year. New York Times bestselling author Emma Straub has created something special. Straub effortlessly uses her skills with the pen to weave the element of time travel into what I originally thought would be a run-of-time-mill contemporary fiction book. It is clever and compelling. Fans of Rebecca Serle’s IN FIVE YEARS and ONE ITALIAN SUMMER or Jodi Picoult’s WISH YOU WERE HERE should definitely give this one a try!
Find the book in the catalog.
Review written by: Jeana Gockley, Joplin Public Library Director