On my list of 2014 resolutions is: Get to new books faster. Guess what. It was also on my list of 2013 resolutions. And 2012. As you can see, it's not going well.So it's half-apologetically that I start this new franchise: The Better-Late-Than-Never Book Club. It's not like theJane Austen Book Club (a novel that, seriously, I read about three months ago. It came out in 2003). But it will highlight excellent books—books that came out a while ago, that everybody said I had to read, but that I'm just getting around to confirming the greatness of now. Since I think a few of you are probably also in my boat—our boat is called the U.S.S. Life Gets in the Way of New Releases—I hope you won't mind my late-to-the-game reviews. First up: Kate Atkinson's Life After Life.
I'm going to be honest here: There is a reason besides book backup I didn't read this highly acclaimed novel right away. I hate the cover. I don't know what it is; I can't stand it. And covers are very important to me—if I had my way, most of them would fall somewhere in the zone of Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth.
But there's a compliment hidden in this complaint: Once I finally caved, I loved the book despite its cover. It's unlike anything I've ever read: It follows the life and many deaths of Ursula, a girl born in 1910. Yes, her manydeaths—basically, if you've ever had a near-death experience and then spaced out for half an hour thinking of what would've happened if you actually died, you'll understand this perfectly. It takes 40 pages or so to get used to the rhythm, but then it becomes hypnotic—we know that every time we see Ursula die, we're about to be transported to a next chapter where one butterfly-effect thing is different, and she's still alive. The more deaths you read, the more complex the story becomes—and the more you marvel at how small things really can impact fate.
Though it's totally compelling, the book isn't a quick read—it's the kind of thing you let steep. But it doesn't feel arduous, especially thanks to half a dozen irresistible female characters—Ursula's mother, the mercurial Sylvie, is my favorite. It's not for spring break, but it is perfect for curling up by the fire and forgetting to be jealous you didn't go on spring break. And of course, even if you don't get to it till summer, I'm the last girl who's gonna judge you—come on back and tell me what you thought.