Jill Westfield should be happy with her life. She has the home of her dreams, a loving albeit distracted and insanely busy husband, and a beautiful toddler whom she adores. But lately, it’s just not working for her. Though she chose to give up her career to be a stay-at-home-mom, Jill has moments where she feels less than fulfilled, and with her husband always on the go, she feels as if she is doing it all alone. Things get bad when she finds out that Jackson, her “ex” before marrying Henry, has just gotten engaged, and even worse the owner of the laundry that she uses tells her that she’s looking rough and needs more sex. Yikes! What’s a girl to do?
Probably something like what I would do since she immediately books it over to the spa to get some relaxation, a massage, and to ponder the greener grass she could be enjoying with Jackson, whom she fantasizes about all the time. Jill relaxes so much that she ends up going back 7 years into the past where she is living with Jackson, about to land a major account at her ad agency, and without her baby, Katie. However, with all of her knowledge of the future, Jill doesn’t find that it ‘s easy to know what to do or even what she wants.
I think that I like time-travel novels and that’s not something that I would have said about myself. It definitely falls into the “who knew?” category for me. But I loved Kindred, enjoyed The Time Traveler’s Wife & Remembrance, and I was eager to read this book and see how Jill handled going back into the past. So now I am adding this novel to the list of time-travel books I have thoroughly enjoyed.
When I started reading this, I wondered what direction it would go in because it wasn’t readily apparent to me from the set-up. Was this going to be a silly and fun romp in the past or a a serious examination of a life and what caused it go off-track? While it was fun to see Jill embrace and revisit her old life with the added bonus of all of her accumulated knowledge, I was pleasantly surprised with the depth of the novel as Jill struggled to approach her past in a way that would satisfy the ennui felt by the future Jill, and to try things differently- to see the people in her life more completely and more compassionately.
Jill’s characterization is strong, and even though I haven’t had her experiences I’ve had her doubts and reactions in similar and in other situations. I felt as if I really knew her and that she was a pretty good representative of the audience and how anyone would have handled the experience of being granted a second chance at life. In the beginning, I was really curious to see what the big deal was about her old life, and I wanted her to let go of her future and be more fully immersed in the experience, but I’m glad that it didn’t turn out that way because I realize that there is no way I would have been able to go back and live my past differently. I too would have made painstaking comparisons to my future, and minutely examine how things were better or worse? Can anyone not do that? This aspect of the book made it so real for me, and it was so absorbing to see as Jill grew, and as she started to get a handle on herself/learn what it was that she wanted.
An interesting set of secondary characters serve as both supplement to Jill, and I believe, aspects of herself which she needs to address. As she deals with her ex-lover, meets with her husband before he’s her husband, and struggles to help doomed friends and unhappy co-workers, Jill has to come to terms with who she has been and who she will be in the future. This search for herself is framed by the damaged and mysterious relationship she has with her mother and the longing for her daughter Katie, whom she is unsure if she will ever see again due to the way her past is unfolding the second time around. This deceptively light and charming novel had a wonderful mystery element to it and explored issues and questions about relationships which I am still thinking about a month after having put it down. I just love it when books are like that.