Book Club Pick: Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I had high expectations for this novel — it sounded like something I needed to read at the current moment in my life, but I was so disappointed in it. The book club ladies all agreed that it was just OK – it was more of a “beach read” as it was light and fluffy. We weren’t fans of this novel, but some of the ladies read other books by Taylor Jenkins Reid (The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Daisy Jones and the Six). One of the ladies immediately read The Sevens Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and noticed a huge difference in Reid’s writing style since Maybe in Another Life was published in 2015.
Synopsis from Goodreads:
At the age of twenty-nine, Hannah Martin still has no idea what she wants to do with her life. She has lived in six different cities and held countless meaningless jobs since graduating college. On the heels of leaving yet another city, Hannah moves back to her hometown of Los Angeles and takes up residence in her best friend Gabby’s guestroom. Shortly after getting back to town, Hannah goes out to a bar one night with Gabby and meets up with her high school boyfriend, Ethan.
Just after midnight, Gabby asks Hannah if she’s ready to go. A moment later, Ethan offers to give her a ride later if she wants to stay. Hannah hesitates. What happens if she leaves with Gabby? What happens if she leaves with Ethan?
In concurrent storylines, Hannah lives out the effects of each decision. Quickly, these parallel universes develop into radically different stories with large-scale consequences for Hannah, as well as the people around her. As the two alternate realities run their course, Maybe in Another Life raises questions about fate and true love: Is anything meant to be? How much in our life is determined by chance? And perhaps, most compellingly: Is there such a thing as a soul mate?
Hannah believes there is. And, in both worlds, she believes she’s found him.
During our discussion, we explored the writing, character development, the Butterfly Effect, and the questionable nurse/patient relationship.
Writing and Character Development
The beginning felt rushed, like Reid (or her editor) wanted her to get right into the thick of the plot with the diverging timelines. There was not much substance for character development of the protagonist, Hannah. We felt like Reid was trying to do too much with this novel, like she was writing two novels and tried to fit them into one. This led to a lot of repetition, especially towards the ending of the novel. This could have been an excellent novel, but it fell short for us.
Some of the ladies wanted to DNF this book towards the middle because they could not get into it, and just weren’t enjoying it. This person told us that she finished two books that were similar in genre before reading this one so that’s why she wasn’t ‘getting into it.’
We all loved Gabby and wanted more of Hannah and Gabby’s friendship. The moments they between each other is what I remember most about this novel, the moments made all of us smile. But those male characters… fell flat. We didn’t like ANY of the men in this novel, we wanted more Gabby and Hannah moments with more focus on their friendship. We found Ethan to be annoying and boring.
Hair Buns and Cinnamon Buns
The cinnamon buns were overdone. As was the obsession with the high bun, there was too much of it. It had potential, a lot of potential to be a cute element in the story, but it was overdone.
Butterfly Effect and Babies
The butterfly effect was tossed out, Reid threw caution to the wind and ran with her ideas for the two timelines. It needed more drama, which we all agreed upon.
This might be a spoiler so proceed with caution. Hannah finds out that she is pregnant… and this baby is a reminder of the affair she had with a married man (which is a whole discussion we didn’t get to have!) and her past when she moved back to L.A. to have a fresh start. I think there was one line where Gabby told her she had options, and I’m pretty sure Hannah said she was pro-choice? (I think… But I’m not 100% positive) I feel like there could have been more discussion about the option Hannah had instead of “I’m going to have this baby even though I don’t really want to have kids and I’m going to ask Ethan to be part of my life still and he may leave me because this isn’t his child.”
We speculated that there was no real conversation about Hannah’s choices from the publisher (Simon and Schuster) or maybe her editor didn’t want to touch this subject and cause waves and controversy with the conversation. This leads into our conversation about the difference in Reid’s writing and books between Simon and Schuster and Penguin Random House (Fun fact… Penguin Random House BOUGHT Simon and Schuster). Maybe in Another Life and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo were published with Simon and Schuster while Daisy Jones and the Six was published with Penguin Random House.
Nurses and Relationships?
If there’s anyone in the health care profession could you help us out? We discussed the relationship Hannah and Henry, her night nurse. When Hannah is released from the hospital, she can contact him and then pursue a relationship with Henry right? There are no rules stating that they can’t have contact, and if they see each other on the street Hannah must engage first? Is this a thing? What if she sent Gabby to the hospital to give Henry her number and they go from there, is that still discouraged? We had so many questions about this!
Overall, we found this book to be okay. I would give this one a 3.5 out of 5. It was okay, but I wouldn’t want to read it again.
What Are We Reading Next?
Our next read is something literary. Drop your thoughts about this book in the comments if you’ve read it or recommend what we should read in December!