I love the movie Sliding Doors. If you haven’t seen it, Gwyneth Paltrow’s character runs to catch the subway—in one storyline, she makes the train, and in the other she misses it. Watching how her life plays out differently based on such a small thing is both fascinating and frightening. It makes me think about my life and how it would have been different if I’d chosen another path. What if I’d gone to a different college? Chosen to attend medical school in Buffalo rather than Manhattan? What if I’d ignored my roommate’s advice to sign up for JDate.com? I’m a sucker for any story where a character’s life changes dramatically based on one simple choice or split second decision, two paths diverging never to meet again. These three books fill the Sliding Doors shaped hole in my heart.
I adore Clare Mackintosh’s writing. All of her thrillers are unputdownable (I Let you Go is my favorite). Her new book is unlike her others, but equally good. This one is inspired by a tragic choice she and her husband were forced to make when their child was terminally ill. In the novel, Pip and Max are faced with the unimaginable. Their two year old son, Dylan, is dying of a brain tumor. After exhausting almost all treatments, they are advised to let him go. Pip wants to end Dylan’s suffering while Max vows to keep fighting no matter what. Forced to face off in court, Max and Pip become estranged and the storylines diverge midway into the book. What if Pip wins and their son is allowed to die peacefully? What if Max gets his way and takes Dylan to Houston for alternative treatments? The reader watches the story play out both ways, each path equal parts emotional, believable and heartbreaking.
The Two Lila Bennetts explores this idea within the psychological thriller genre and it doesn't disappoint. When Lila meets her boss in the office garage, she goes with him to dinner in one scenario and turns down his advance in the other. The two Lila’s then have different stories, both equally riveting and exciting. I definitely kept turning the pages to see where each of Lila's stories would go. Lila is flawed, complex and sometimes unlikeable, but I rooted for her, for both hers, the whole way through. This one’s a fast paced thrill ride to put in your beach bag.
Taylor Jenkins Reid is one of my favorite authors. Her latest, Daisy Jones and the Six ,absolutely blew me away earlier this year (the audiobook is full cast and a true marvel to listen to). Maybe in Another Life, one of her earlier works, riffs on the Sliding Doors idea. Hannah Martin moves back to LA and goes to a bar with her friend, Gabby, where she runs into her high school boyfriend, Ethan. What happens if she plays it safe and goes home with Gabby? What if she takes a risk and leaves with Ethan? I loved watching Hannah’s life story play out in the two alternate realities and finding out where Hannah ultimately ends up.