Wednesday, July 09, 2008

50 Book Challenge #7: The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver

I actually read this book before On Chesil Beach. See, the backlog of books. Anyway, this book is like Sliding Doors. Remember that movie from the late '90s, before Gwyn became the ex-pat latter day Yoko even though Coldplay sucked hard without her help? Yeah. Anyway, that movie was also about betrayal and alternate realities, only everything hinged on missing a train. It was kind of ridiculous.

This book is less willing to ascribe such different fates to, well, fate. It's about choice. We choose to betray, but we do not choose to be betrayed. Thus, our "fates" are less about happenstance and serendipity (a concept I hate), and more about choices, good and bad, and the choices of others that we can't control. And once you choose, you have to keep on choosing. If you choose to leave a person, you choose to live with the consequences. If you choose to stay with another, you must make that a daily choice, constantly reaffirmed. Unfortunately, your choosing to stay with them does not mean that they choose to stay with you. Life isn't exactly "choose your own adventure," but it is better than surrendering yourself to chance.

This book seemed suspiciously chick lit-y, but it came well-recommended from a beloved friend who has only my best interests at heart. It's really quite well-written, and is acute and insightful about relationships and love. It's also kind of sad. It made me feel vaguely unsettled, but in keeping with my belief in Bertrand Russell's maxim that an unexamined life is not worth living, it is not a bad thing to think about these things. What can you live with? What can't you live without? Replace that "what" with "who." Rather painful questions. But good to think about. And the novel is a pleasure to read, full of interesting plot twists. Recommended.


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