Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Book review: Replay by Ken Grimwood

Amazon: “Jeff Winston, forty-three, didn’t know he was a replayer until he died and woke up twenty-five years younger in his college dorm room; he lived another life. And died again. And lived again and died again — in a continuous twenty-five-year cycle — each time starting from scratch at the age of eighteen to reclaim lost loves, remedy past mistakes, or make a fortune in the stock market. A novel of gripping adventure, romance, and fascinating speculation on the nature of time, Replay asks the question: “What if you could live your life over again?”
This was a really enjoyable read, and as such I raced through it in about a day. I think Grimwood hit on some really poignant human truths here, in terms of one’s experiences adding up to shape their future, and how one would change their future if they could. On his first replay, Jeff pursues wealth. He finds himself in a mostly loveless marriage, but with enough money and enough of a loving connection to his daughter, he seems to more or less enjoy his life. On his second replay, he is profoundly affected by the loss — or non-existence, really — of his daughter, but places more importance on the value of human connection over massive wealth. By the third replay, he becomes cynical, having lost so many lifetimes of meaningful companionship, and his early existence is marked by careless hedonism and somewhat destructive behavior. It is during this “lifetime” that Jeff experiences a crucial turning point, which I won’t give away, but it lends stability to the rest of the novel by grounding Jeff.

The writing here was simple but affecting, and the pacing was good. The characters, as I implied above, were believable, and given extra dimensionality by the opportunity to meet them several times under different circumstances. This one is a definite recommendation from me.

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