The residents of a sleepy mountain town are rocked by mysterious visions of an alternate reality in this dazzling debut that combines the family-driven suspense of Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere with the inventive storytelling of The Immortalists and Station Eleven.
In the quiet mountain haven of Clearing, Oregon, four neighbors find their lives upended when they begin to see themselves in a parallel reality. Ginny, a devoted surgeon whose work often takes precedence over her family, has a baffling vision of her beautiful coworker in her bed, and begins to doubt the solidity of her marriage. Ginny's husband Mark, a wildlife scientist, sees a vision that suggests impending devastation--and grows increasingly paranoid, threatening the safety of his wife and son. Samara, a young woman desperately mourning the recent death of her mother and questioning why her father seems to be handling it with such ease, witnesses an apparition of her mom healthy and vibrant, and wonders about the secrets her parents may have kept from her. Cass, a brilliant scholar struggling with the demands of new motherhood, catches a glimpse of herself pregnant again, just as she's on the brink of returning to the project that could define her career.
At first the visions are relatively benign, but they grow increasingly troubling--and in some cases, frightening. When a natural disaster threatens them all, it becomes clear that the visions were not what they first seemed, and that the town of Clearing will never be the same.
Startling, deeply imagined, and compulsively readable, Kate Hope Day's debut novel is about the choices we make that shape our lives and determine our destinies--the moments that alter us so profoundly that it feels as if we've entered another reality.
The book held my interest but I can't say I was left feeling all that satisfied by the time the story wrapped up. While the explanation of why everything occurred wasn't the thing that bothered me, I had this empty feeling when I was done reading because it felt like I got nothing out of the whole purpose of the story.
I rarely read science fiction but I thought the premise for this one sounded like it had potential. Basically four neighbors are just living their lives in Oregon when some weird stuff starts happening. They have these visions where they see themselves in this alternate reality. What the heck is going on?
I gave this one 3 stars because this was a page turner for me. But if I ask myself, did I really get anything out of this read?, I would have to say no. I've read some of the other reviews and that certainly wasn't the case for everyone. It's not a bad book and I don't regret reading, I just wish I would have connected more with the overall message of the story.
I won a free copy of this book in a giveaway but was under no obligation to post a review. All views expressed are my honest opinion.
this is a fun, slipstreamy ‘what-if’ novel that gently floats the possibility of parallel realities as four characters living in a small oregon town begin to experience visions — seeing alternate versions of themselves living completely different lives, having made different choices at their crossroads of love or career; lives with different partners, 'realities' where their dearly departed are still alive and well, or… most alarmingly, seeing a doppelgänger whose appearance suggests a catastrophe on a much larger scale than the personal.
what is causing these visions, presaged by a metallic taste, a tightening of the air, a tremor in the ground? is it the awakening of Broken Mountain, the town’s long-dormant volcano? is it the theoretical multiverse making itself known? is it a coincidence that those affected include a scientist studying the effects of geothermal activity on animal behavior? or an academic whose area of study, before pregnancy paused her PhD, was metaphysics, specifically these very hypothetical alternate worlds? is it a coincidence that the four characters driving this story are not only neighbors, but also connected through circumstance in unexpectedly intimate ways? of course it's not, and this tricksy little novel has so very many delicious surprises in store.
this goes down smooooooooth like cream soda. i’d only intended to dip into it, see what it was all about, but i got sucked in immediately and between the clean prose, the ping-ponging POVs and the addictive ‘what is going on??’ of the intrigue, i zoomed straight through without even realizing it.
it's sci-fi lite - the speculative elements are used to explore contemporary/domestic themes concerning family and marriage - examinations of regret and dissatisfaction and complacency; an opportunity for characters to re-evaluate their life choices, with a tacit invitation to the reader to do the same. it's not some new age-y puff piece pretending to be a novel, though - there's meat in this sandwich and it satisfies that food-for-thought hunger.
book club appeal for days, but probably not for SF purists.
I suppose we've all asked ourselves the question....If .... I had made this choice .... Then ....how would my life be different? That is the question that Kate Hope Day explores in this novel.
Clearing, Oregon - in a neighborhood just like any other - four neighbors experience alternate realities via hallucinations or visions.
Ginny - devoted surgeon and married mother of an 11 year old son suddenly has a vision that she and a female co-worker and friend are romantically involved.
Mark - Ginny's husband and scientist has a vision of himself filthy and in tattered clothing after what appears to be some sort of volcanic explosion
Samara - has a vision of her recently deceased mother that she is still mourning and it appears she didn't know her mother as well as she thought she did.
Cass- a new mother that is just barely coping and wishes to return to her career has a vision that she is pregnant again.
I won't even attempt to tell you that I understood what was happening in this book but, still, I couldn't stop turning the pages. The premise was just so compelling and the writing is fabulous. I felt as if the author really transported me to this cul-de-sac neighborhood in Oregon. While I liked all of the characters in this book (WHAT? THAT NEVER HAPPENS!) it was Mark's story that really held my attention. I found the ending to be satisfying. 4 visionary stars!
Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Do you ever read one of those books where you realize you’re 80% done with it and nothing has really even happened? That was this book. There’s an interesting kernel of an idea here—about multiverses and what happens when they overlap—but it just never goes anywhere, and when it finally does (kind of?) it’s rushed and winds up feeling very incomplete. This would have been more acceptable if it were a different kind of book, the kind where internal character development takes precedence of plot, but it wasn’t that. It was too shallow to be that. It’s very clear that this was trying to be something like Dark Matter. Overall I found this extremely amateur and disappointing, and am baffled by reviews that claim it has any depth.
*Thanks to NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.*
An interesting - slim-jim innovative novel. Rights have been signed for a TV series. Author Kate Hope Day, was an associate producer at HBO. This is Kate’s debut novel. I agree with other readers that this book might work better on screen ( or at least come more alive and fun to watch are my thoughts).... but where some readers felt that the author wasn’t effective in drawing parallel worlds in a coherent storyline, which may be true, the characters hit a sweet spot in me.... and I the writing created luminous visuals.
The characters were all so realistically relatable.... but with intense spooky-disturbing’ hallucinations or visuals.
The disturbing alternate visions that these ‘relatable characters’ had were compelling. It left me wondering about things I won’t ever know: ‘what if’ questions about situations in my own life..... if....I hadn’t been such an asshole to a friends son years ago ( he was an asshole and I expressed his ‘wrongdoing’)....would I have lost my friendship with his mom? Being ‘right’ and ‘honest’ cost me a friendship. I was the asshole. So.. what if? I thought about many different choices I made and how life might be different.... and most, I enjoyed Kate Hope Day’s characters and all that they grappled with. Interesting & unsettling as can be. Definitely sounds like a terrific TV Series.
I’m not a heavy science fiction reader. ( yippy! it isn’t). Kate Hope Day explored counterfactual theories with sensitive themes: grief, infidelity, love, loss, fear, and hope. It was the complexity issues of the alternative ways in which the characters saw themselves or their loved ones that I found so interesting.
The setting for this novel is a small College town in Clearing, Oregon... near a volcano called Broken Mountain. Most residents were not frightened by a threatening volcanic explosion in the near future. One of the characters was: very concerned. I couldn’t help but check google - is there ‘really’ a volcanic threat in their near future? YES... four volcanoes in Oregon ‘are’ a very large threat. Scary!
Characters we meet are: ( tidbit synopsis - avoiding spoilers of their specific quandaries):
...Ginny...Head chief of surgery. She works at a nearby hospital.
...Mark... a biologist who studies the natural habitat/ frogs...and their migration effects on greater problematic natural disasters. He ‘is’ concern about the nearby volcano erupting.
...Ginny& Mark are married and have a son named Noah.
Mr. Kells... A philosophy professor and a patient of Ginny’s.
...Samara.... lives next-door to Ginny, Mark, and Noah. She’s living with her father. Her mother has died.
...Cass...was a promising PhD student, but leaves her program to stay home as a full time new mother.
Other characters ... ‘children’ and a few towns people.
The way the characters lives interconnected with each other was engaging.... and very astute. We really ‘feel’ and ‘care’ for the people in this book - even those we like less than others.
Awesome book - perfect escape-thought-provoking- novel. The ending of the story had me thinking of ‘alternative’ endings. But overall I was satisfied with the ending and already starting to imagine the TV series and where they’ll take it.
This was a refreshing genre for me — needing distance from the tragedies of historical war stories.
We all play the If, Then game. You know the one: If I had...then.... Somtimes we envision results from minor situations such as If I had not eaten so much at dinner, Then my dress wouldn’t be so tight. Sometimes we fantasize about major events in our lives such as: If I had gone to law school, Then I would be a rich successful lawyer today. But ultimately we put If Then aside and return to reality. But what if reality becomes difficult to determine? What if the visions we ponder in the If, Then game seems to become real? Kate Hope Day in her novel, If, Then, explores the idea of parallel or alternative realities. Kate introduces us to four neighbors living on the same cul de sac in Clearing, Oregon. Ginny is a skilled surgeon, dedicated to her work, ponders an affair with a coworker as an escape from her failing marriage. Mark, Ginny’s husband, is an eco scientist, who has become overwhelmed by visions of mass destruction and detestation. These premonitions have consumed his life. Neighbor Samara deeply mourns the death of her mother, wonders why her father is so easily adapting. When she sees a younger healthy manifestation of her mother, she begins to question what it is that she really knows. Cass, the fourth neighbor, is a brilliant scholar and new mother. As she prepares to return to her promising research she is troubled by her recurring vision of herself pregnant again. The visions are troubling to her. And then there is the volcano. Clearing, Oregon has a dormant volcano. Kate Hope Day gives us a story of possibilities. Is there a theoretical universe? Are four neighbors connected in other ways? Is the volcano awakening? Kate Hope Day’s attention to detail makes the book a mind bendy, time twisty, all to real speculative drama. This book may not be enough for hardcore sci-fi aficionados but those of us who have spent a few minutes applying If, Then to our own lives, this is a story that lets us believe in the unbelievable. I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley. #NetGalley #IfThen
If, Then is a quiet, speculative novel about four neighbors living in suburban Oregon. Ginny and Mark are an unhappily married couple, Samara is a young woman coping with the recent death of her mother, and Cass is a young mom who's had to sacrifice her academic ambitions for motherhood. Gradually the novel introduces the possibility of parallel realities which have begun to overlap, as each character starts to see visions of an alternate version of themselves. Throughout the course of the short novel we study each of these characters and unearth the decisions each of them made which prevented their other self's reality from coming to fruition.
While I enjoyed this from start to finish and found the ending in particular to be utterly brilliant, I ultimately think I was hoping for more from this novel's speculative angle. Suburban life is chronicled convincingly, and each character is constructed carefully, but I don't think this digs deep enough to be the kind of character-driven novel it's trying to be. This could have been offset by the concept of parallel realities playing a larger role, but instead, that element is more of a vehicle used by the author to explore the novel's central concept: if I had done this instead of that, then what would have happened as a result? Still, it's a quick and thought-provoking read, and though it's underdeveloped in places I think some of the ideas it raises are interesting enough to make up for that. 3.5 stars.
Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.
Can speculative domestic dramas be a new trend? Because I would like to read at least five more books like this one. It takes the kind of complex character building I really enjoy and adds unexpected elements and surreal twists that keep it from feeling like anything close to the same old thing.
At the heart of this book is what usually exists just in your mind as you wonder what other paths your life could have taken if you'd made a different decision. But in this book, those other selves are ever-so-briefly made real to a group of characters in an Oregon town. In the middle of a normal day they will see, for an instant, another version of themselves that is much the same but slightly different. As these visions recur, they have varying consequences for everyone involved. A woman starts to wonder about the possibility of life with a female coworker by her side instead of her husband. A daughter views glimpses of her recently-dead mother planning a new start and starts to reconsider who her mother was.
I particularly loved Cass, the brilliant-philosopher-turned-new-mom who is not sure she will ever go back to finish her PhD. She reminded me of two other recent brilliant female characters in 2019 novels, in LOST AND WANTED and THE TENTH MUSE, and I am hopeful there are even more coming.
This is the kind of book that could do really well in a book club, generating a lot of discussion and a good way to dip your toe into speculative fiction for clubs that may be hesitant to move into genre novels.
I was never able to really connect with this one. It's one of those typical lit-fic books where we follow a group of interconnected characters through an exploration of some Big Metaphysical Themes, and you know, normally I would be on board for that sort of thing. As long as the characters are well-drawn and the Big Metaphysical Themes are handled in a thought-provoking and creative way. If, Then just didn't quite clear either of those bars for me.
What piqued my interest in this one at first was the science fictional twist. I am always a sucker for a science fictional twist! The characters, a group of neighbors in a small city in Oregon, keep running into strange alternate versions of themselves. A discontented doctor sees herself enjoying life with an intriguing new lover. A young mother sees herself pregnant with a different child. A grieving young woman keeps seeing visions of her late mother, alive and well. And an academic witnesses a disheveled, traumatized version of himself who seems to be living through some kind of cataclysm. Hmmm. 🎵 One of these things is not like the others... 🎶
I'm sure none of this has to do with the Chekhov's volcano that the book mentions every other sentence or so. Don't worry, it's a dormant volcano, the narrative assures us. Just sitting there, right outside of town, being dormant. Pay no attention to that volcano.
Anyway. Most of the book is wrapped up in these characters' incredibly boring domestic struggles. What will I do with my life? Will I stay with the man I no longer love, or pursue my sexy coworker? Will I take up my mother's real estate business like she wanted, or go back to my life in the big city? Will I return to grad school, or stay home with my new baby? WILL I BUILD A BUNKER IN MY BACKYARD, BECAUSE YOU GUYS, I KEEP SEEING MYSELF RUNNING AROUND TERRIFIED IN THE WILDERNESS AND OH GOD I THINK THAT VOLCANO IS GOING TO BLOW??!
🎵 One of these things just isn't the same... 🎶
So yeah, the tone of this thing just didn't hang together very well. The supernatural aspects weren't incorporated fluidly, and the non-supernatural storylines were just dull. Worst of all, it didn't have any surprises up its sleeve. If a book is going to posit the existence of infinite realities rubbing elbows with our own, shouldn't one or two of those encounters be a tiny bit astonishing? Or tell me something interesting, beyond the idea that we might make different choices under different circumstances, or that sometimes volcanoes erupt?
Caveat: I listened to this as an audiobook, which isn't an ideal format for me to appreciate this kind of book, and it was while pulling all-nighters organizing data for a project, so my mind kept wandering. YMMV?
I loved this time warping, mind twisting novel! Day's prose is convincing and beautiful, whether she is writing from the point of view of a doctor doing surgery, to a scientist doing field work, to a realtor selling houses. She handles the unusual bumps and folds of time that the story reveals in an equally expert way. I often thought of Tom Perrotta's wonderful The Leftovers as I read it, in the sense that she made me believe that unbelievable things could actually happen. This is literary fiction with a delicious element of science fiction that will appeal to lovers of both. Don't miss it.
If, Then is a short, quiet novel--but it's also a fascinating one. I wish If, Then had gotten more attention because it's absolutely wonderful.
Set in a fictional town near a (also fictional) presumably "dormant" volcano in the Pacific Northwest, If, Then posits that we live multiple lives in multiple ways at the same time (aka multiverse) and has her characters get a glimpse into these other lives--some better, some worse--as the volcano starts to rumble. What's interesting is that for two of the main female characters, it offers pleasant changes from their current lives (in one, a different partner, in other, the return of a lost loved one), while the main male character sees nothing but pain and suffering.
But who I really want to talk about is Cassandra (who is so perfectly named) -- a one time graduate student who stopped work on her philosophy dissertation because of her newborn daughter, Leah. Cassandra wants to start working on her dissertation again, but she can't find a way back into her work on the study of a unifying theory of everything.
Then, a note from her former mentor--who is ill in every varation of every mc's life--one that leaves a clue that has her negotiating what seems to be the same place as everyone else (it isn't) while seeing "flashes" of herself as somehow pregnant again but with no sign of her daughter.
By the end, Cassandra has found a way back into her dissertation and feels content with the idea of the multiverse and how it works, imagining (actually seeing) a bunch of different babies in her arms as she reflects on the area volcano being monitored for signs of a one day maybe erruption, to how everything is connected, how happy her family is and makes her, and contentedly falls asleep to the sounds of their breathing.****
Also by the end--the two other female mcs have lived through the volcano errupting (but not in a major way, largely infrastructure loss with only a few deaths) but also decided to understand what they want and can have and to go for it. For the male mc, Mark--well, he doesn't end up as tragic as the "other" self he sees, but he still can't see the folly of trying to keep fate/change/whatever you want to call it at bay. If, Then falters in Mark's sections because it tries to make a point that eludes itself. (Which might have been the point, but it doesn't gel as a sense of anything except overwrought in a novel that's otherwise very well calibrated)
**** S P A C E
The last bit, with Cassandra--she's dead, right? Alive in the other characters' existence, but as a new mom to a baby boy and no signs of going back to school--her theory of everything only exists in a place where it will never be seen. She, Cassandra, has a truth no one will hear.
And I love that! It's just so well done. And if you've read it, what did you think happened to Cassandra?
I devoured this book in a day and loved it for a bunch of little reasons. The author's attention to detail made her characters unique and her decisions near the end were perfection. The setting is the Cascade mountains of Oregon (I grew up in sight of Mt Hood so I know the landscape well) with volcanic/seismic activity causing some parallel reality situations for these intertwining characters. Believe the hype! I will wax poetic about the book on an upcoming podcast episode.
This is a domestic drama with dashes of philosophy and multiverse theory. A handful of neighbors are living their lives per usual until they begin seeing alternate versions of themselves. One of these individuals is a scientist studying animal behaviors in response to seismological activity and so we start to get the feeling that the "dormant" volcano located near their shared Oregon town may not be as sleepy as commonly believed.
Given how early that seed of doubt regarding the volcano's dormancy was sown, I'll give you one guess how this book plays out. All the rest is just a meandering build-up to that point.
The author had an interesting concept here and I did enjoy the surgeon's sections. Those were highly reminiscent of the early seasons of Grey's Anatomy (back when that show was even partially good), but this book, as a whole, was extremely boring.
“If, Then” by Kate Hope toys with the idea of parallel universes. Philosophers and scientists have considered the idea of other universes for years. It’s a fun premise to consider. Most of our actions can have multiple consequences. It’s those forks in the road; those decisions we make that form our realities.
Four neighbors begin to see visions of themselves with different lives. At first they feel they are a bit crazy. These visions lead to two of the characters making life-changing choices.
Hope writes a almost science fiction novel that encourages the reader to consider parallel universes, to consider if different choices in life had been made, is there another version of yourself living with those consequences? It’s an easy and quick read that engaged this reader. Hope writes the characters realistically, which makes it easy to identify with them.
I love this book! The prose is deft and beautiful. The story is propulsive from the first page, and won't let go of you until its breathless ending. An absolute page-turner with depth and grit. Highly recommended!
Upstanding citizens of southern Oregon start glimpsing alternate (and sometimes happier-looking) versions of themselves living tantalizingly different lives.
Sometimes your alt-universe self is clearly a stinker. And sometimes it's you.
Day deftly manages a slow-burn nonlinear plot (or two) plus smart, believable characters, each of whom reads a different meaning into the glimpses of those alternate selves. While one character sees a warning, another sees a promise, and still another sees
My only complaint is that character development is thin. We don't always get enough insight or detail to explain characters' momentous life choices. Just one example: would a Type-A chief-of-staff surgeon really ?
So not entirely successful, but tantalizing :) and would certainly get any book group talking (and quite possibly arguing). Probably not a church group, though, because
p.s. Extra round of applause for Day for revealing ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>
IF, THEN is a brilliant novel from a major new talent in literary fiction. I blew through this book in two days, and when I was done, I could not stop thinking about it. The premise hooked me from the beginning, but Kate Hope Day takes it to the next level with memorable characters, an intriguing setting, and elegant prose. Without giving anything away, I loved how the parallel lives that the characters glimpsed pushed them into making decisions they wouldn't have otherwise, and it was both fun and moving to watch how those decisions played out. The climax of this book was also beautifully executed, and I found the ending to be really satisfying. Do yourself a favor and READ THIS BOOK!
This is an intriguing, beautifully written work of speculative fiction. I've shelved it as science fiction, but it's not conventional SF. In this story, set in Oregon, several neighbors in the small town of Clearing see visions of themselves and those close to them in parallel realities as the long-dormant Broken Mountain volcano shows signs of erupting. I found it to be quite a page-turner, increasing in pace and intensity as the eruption approaches. It's a thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking read, especially if you're curious about the existence of a multiverse in which people's choices lead to big differences in how their lives play out.
I just finished this book, and would be hard pressed to tell you what I just read. It could have been a good story, but it didn't go anywhere. There isn't really a story line. Disappointed that I spent time on this book.
If, Then is yet another example of 'great concept, poor execution'. Maybe I wouldn't have minded as much if the story had been told in a less uninvolved narrative. The story features on a group of neighbours who begin seeing "what ifs". One sees herself romantically involved with a woman who is currently just her colleague/friend, while a woman who has just recently lost her mother starts seeing her dead mother, and a man sees a version of himself that suggests some imminent catastrophe. As I said (or wrote), I liked the idea of these converging realities...however, I just found the writing to be incredibly frustrating. The writing made each character a mere empty vessel who acted under an inexplicable influence and for some unknown (and hardly credible) reason. They move from A to B, they decide to build bunkers or kiss their friend for no apparent reason! They just go on to do these things but we aren't told what they feel or why the feel like they should replicate these 'what-ifs' they seem to see. We know little about what goes on inside these characters which created a huge disconnect between them, their story and the reader (me). The writing was almost clinically detached from both the characters and their surroundings. There were a lot of pointlessly descriptive phrases which wouldn't have bothered me if they had been interspersed in a more variegated prose. We are told when the characters are affect by physical things such as sweating or flushing but not if they are anxious, afraid or overwhelmed by an emotion of any sort. We are told that the characters wear 'gloves' on their 'hands' and 'flip-flops' on their 'feet', that their cheeks look flushed or red (I swear that 'cheeks' are mentioned one too many times...)...which soon grew tiring. There is an abundance of onomatopoeias that added little to the immediacy of the narrative. The story is told in the present tense and yet everything that happens seems so far away... Their surroundings are also described in the same expository manner: the water that pours out of the tap, the furniture and house of a character who no impact on the story whats-over...the dispassionate way in which things are described would have been more fitting in an IKEA catalogue (for all I know, an IKEA catalogue might offer its readers a bit more enthusiasm). The summary describes 90% of the storyline...which combined with the dull storytelling makes this relatively short read a slog to get through.
Four neighbors begin to feel their worlds upend when they start seeing visions of either themselves or a deceased family member. Mark is a devoted father whose visions of himself start him on a paranoid past to protect his family. He’s also convinced that the local volcano Broken Mountain isn’t as dormant as others think. His wife, Ginny, is a surgeon who hasn’t spent much time with her family. She begins to think she has a brain tumor when she begins to see visions of herself apparently having a loving relationship with her female co-worker. Samara is seeing visions of her deceased mother. Cass is a young mother, struggling with taking care of a new baby while her husband is away. She’d like to return to her scholarly work but she’s having visions of herself having another baby.
I’ve become quite interested in alternate realities and the law of attraction so I felt this book was a must read for me, but I definitely have been left with the feeling that something was missing. I had difficulty becoming emotionally involved with these characters and found Cass and Ginny to be annoying. Samara was my favorite character and I loved the scene where she goes to the thrift store where her father had taken all of her deceased mother’s things, gathering them up with the intent to buy them back. She’s really the only character I felt any connection with. The visions of the alternate realities was one thing but when the realities began to overlap, that sometimes became confusing.
This felt like a screenplay for an upcoming TV show and it may well work better in that capacity. While it kept my interest throughout, I didn’t feel it was anything special and can only give this one 3 stars.
This book was given to me by the publisher in return for an honest review.
BOOK REVIEW IF, THEN KATE HOPE DAY Thank you to @randomhouse @katehopeday @netgalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review. If, Then is strangely intriguing. If I had made this choice, then this would have happened. Everyone thinks that sometimes. One little thing can change the course of an entire life. People in a small Oregon town actually witness themselves from time to time around town, only as different versions of themselves in imagined scenarios. The characters are privy to the reality of speculation and how certain choices would have affected the entire course of their lives. Can you imagine? There's my neighbor if....then, or there's my dead mother if...then, or there's me with a husband and kids, if...then? Seriously, it's straight up creepy yet absolutely fascinating. Well written, sharp and insightful, this story is layered with complexity in a unique and terrifying world. The premise is so original, and it's a captivating story from the first page to the last. I highly recommend not missing this one, especially if you've ever wondered what might have been.
cw: infidelity, grief disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. All of the opinions presented below are my own. All quotes have been taken from the advanced copy and are subject to change upon publication.
I’m sure all of us have wondered what if. All those little -- and big -- choices that we’ve made throughout our lives. What they would have led to, where we’d be today had we chosen a different path. If, Then explores what would happen if we got a glimpse of these once possible other lives. The plot is mostly slow-moving and even when big things happen, the focus is almost entirely on the characters’ internal lives. Kate Hope Day is a remarkably good writer, and I was surprised to find this was her debut novel. She writes flawed, believable characters whose lives you will truly care about. It’s hard to delve too much into without reaching “spoiler” territory, but I’ll try.
She waits for a rush of gratitude for all the good, solid things in her life. But it doesn’t come. Her life will continue just as it is. She’ll go home and figure out what to make for dinner. She’ll have a glass of wine, feed the cats, and talk to Mark about what to do if school is cancelled next week. She’ll iron a shirt for clinic tomorrow.
Ginny was probably my favorite character (although I��m probably biased because she’s queer). She starts out as the stereotypical woman-who-can’t-have-it-all, a surgeon who doesn’t have time for her family, but as her thoughts and experiences are exposed to us she becomes her own person outside of the trope she lives. I do wish that her husband, Mark, had felt a bit more sympathetic to me, but I think that’s also due to some personal bias. It was interesting to see how Ginny’s perception of their relationship seemed to change the nature of the relationship itself, although Mark had something to do with that as well.
She’s not very good at it -- loving and being loved.
Samara is deep into mourning the loss of her mother, and I enjoyed seeing their relationship explored in a different way than Ginny and Mark’s. Most would assume that the death of a person ends your relationship with them, but it was clear that Samara’s bond with her mother was able to strengthen even after the death of the latter. I liked how this was displayed, through Samara imagining the things her mother would say and how those things shifted after Samara’s impression of her had changed.
The picture Cass has of herself -- it doesn’t match the woman in the rocker at all. When she thinks of herself the picture is colorless, all light eyes and skin and hair. Washed-out. Static. An overdeveloped driver’s license photo that lives permanently in her mind. But this other Cass is a polychromatic wonder. Full of agile, assured movement, even in routine pose. Full of grace.
Last but not least, I just adored Cass and seeing how her relationship with herself changed. Cass is a new mother and former doctorate student who put her studies on hold in order to care for her child. After giving birth, she lost all motivation to write and sees no way of returning to her former life in academia. As someone with depression and chronic fatigue, I can relate to having the need to do something while also lacking the ability to do it. Watching Cass grapple with this internal struggle felt simultaneously saddening and inspiring. With not just Cass, but the entire cast of characters, Day shows that change, even when necessary, is not easy.
What I really loved was the ending. There is a slowly rising wave of emotions building throughout the novel that come to a thrilling climax near the end. The aftermath of this wave is examined in a thoughtful and realistic light, and Day makes no promises of easy happy endings. She recognizes that although things are hopeful for these characters and their futures, difficulties still lie ahead. I’m no longer satisfied by carefree endings and enjoy the more nuanced world Day was able to provide. The journey of these characters is not at an end, and that is made clear to the reader. I put down the book with a surge of emotion, and hope that Day’s next novel will give me a similar experience.
A quick, well-paced read. While this is technically science fiction it doesn’t read like typical sci-fi at all. Easily read by anyone due to its contemporary setting and strong characters.
Science When most people think of science fiction they imagine space, aliens and/or monstrous species (think Predator). But the reality is there is a whole area of sci-fi that is often left in the fiction section. Often set in modern day life, where everything can be explained by Earth science and is rooted in current known scientific principles. Michael Crichton is easily the most famous writer of this genre. If, Then is perfectly suited to be classified next to Crichton or Blake Crouch. The scientific topics in Kate Hope Day’s novel range from medicine to frog migration to bunker load capacity. I think the topics are presented in a very accessible way for any reading or education level.
Diversity As everyone in our novel is connected in some way (by family, friendship, co-worker or neighbour) it could be argued that it is a bit tough to create diversity in the pages. However Day does a good job of giving us different families, ethnicities, religions and a lesbian relationship. There was something missing for me however. All our families are built off the premise that a family constitutes at minimum one child and one parent. I would have liked more focus on Ginny (our single lesbian who lives on her own and is a supporting character) or one additional couple whom are perhaps older and have no children (for whatever reason) that are featured like our other characters. The point of view changes in If, Then between all the characters so you get to know them very well. I know my desire for a couple without children is because I wanted a character or two I could relate to easier.
Characters I think anyone who can relate to one of the main characters will be enamoured with the dynamic relationships that Day has given us. Even before things start to really ‘happen’, just past halfway, I felt like I could anticipate how our characters would react. That’s generally a good sign as it means the characters make sense and are well established. Each has their own inner struggle and unique reaction to the odd things happening around them.
Preppers I keep telling my husband if we had random extra money laying around (lol) I might set up a bit of a doomsday prepping area of our home. We laugh and blow it off; even though both of us have genuinely indicated that being prepared is important. The question of course becomes how important. Day brings to light what all dystopian (pre or post) fiction does; preppers last longer and are often the only ones to survive. Let’s face it most people don’t even have enough drinking water in their home for 3 days without power and water (never mind a week). If this story doesn’t make you go buy or organize some extra supplies at your house then you probably missed part of the point.
Plot You may wonder why I don’t say much about the plot in If, Then. The thing is anything I say regarding the plot is likely to give things away. There are many nuances in the plot and it’s easy to guess how things likely go. Yet that didn’t distract me from wanting to know how each person coped with what was or would happen.
Overall This would have been a five star book if I had found one character to feel more connected to. It was really the only thing missing for me. As Day’s book is very focused on the characters and so it’s hard for me to ignore the feeling that one more character set would have been the icing on the cake for this story. That said, this is a well executed character study set in a reality that could be right now and certainly makes you think about our realities and existence.
Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.
Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for the opportunity to read this book and in exchange provide honest feedback.
Four neighbors in Oregon begin to see alternate versions of themselves and don't know why. As the book progresses, we learn about how each character is dealing with a particular adversity and how these visions fit into that. This started out strong for me, but I was left feeling disappointed. When I read the summary, I thought this was a really cool concept. A bunch of people see alternate versions of themselves that alter how they see things and the choices they make? A character driven novel? Sounds interesting!
I don't want to say much more about the plot because I think that is part of the reason I was left feeling disappointed. In an attempt to market the book, the story was made out to be something that it isn't - more sci-fi and dramatic. While the characters were well developed and interesting, the book didn't live up to what I thought was its full potential. For example, the why behind the visions wasn't really explored in depth and in the last section of the book, it seemed like the timeline wasn't really what we thought, but then it kind of veered in a different direction. (I feel like I'm struggling to properly explain, but in an attempt to keep this as spoiler free as possible, this is the best I can do.)
Ultimately, If,Then was good. The visions the characters had didn't play as much of a part as I thought they would. In the absence of this, was a very good story with interesting people and lessons to learn. I think most people will be able to look past the criticisms I had and enjoy this immensely. The writing was strong - the plot just needed some flushing out in parts (for me). I look forward to seeing other reviews and welcome anyone who would like to discuss what I think would be a great pick for a book club!
Oh wow! My mind is completely blown. This may be the best premise for a novel ever. I absolutely LOVE multiverse stories, and I’m also obsessed with philosophy, so I was fascinated from the first page. Kate Hope Day blew away my (very, very high) expectations. IF, THEN does for parallel worlds what The Time Traveler’s Wife does for time travel and what Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life does for time loops. Like those books (which are among my favorite books ever), this book takes a sci-fi type of concept and focuses on what impact that has on the interconnected lives of a group of neighbors.
My favorite aspect of IF, THEN is the amazingly authentic and in-depth look into the lives of a variety of characters. Whether she’s writing from the point of view of a surgeon, a philosopher, a scientist, or a stay-at-home mother, the author takes us into their thought processes, using such rich and specific details that we are transported to their worlds and psyches. I kept turning the page, wondering how in the world this author can know so much about so many different fields.
Another thing I love is the beautiful yet eerie setting, especially Broken Mountain (love the name!), which is thought to be a dormant volcano. There is so much suspense that builds throughout about whether it’s actually dormant and when (or if) some disaster will strike. It totally stressed me out in the best possible way, and I read long into the night to finish the book.
In short, a fascinating and brilliant novel that I heartily recommend. I’m not surprised at all that it’s being made into a movie—it’s going to be a huge hit. This is one of these books that is so thought-provoking that you want all your friends to read it so you can discuss it with them. Just perfect for book clubs. It’s so impressive that this is Kate Day Hope’s debut novel, and I’ll definitely be looking for her next book!
Writing a novel that deals with multiple possibilities is usually a high-brow concept that requires a great deal of skill, both in order to make everything make sense, but also to try and say something new and original - after all, there are a lot of great predecessors in this subgenre. Think of Paul Auster's recent 4, 3, 2, 1 (2017), for instance, which while not quite a masterpiece, was pretty damn good.
Kate Hope Day's If, Then (2019) is a competent but utterly mediocre novel, and it probably would score more than one star from most readers. It focuses on four extremely boring characters, who are all either utterly mundane or hackneyed cliches. Consider Day's philosophy professor, Robert Kells, for instance. Kells is the gruff but caring slob with, naturally, a heart of gold, who somehow made it to a tenured professorship with only a single book, Counter-Factuals, based on his dissertation. Talk about an imaginary parallel world!
The novel itself moves painfully slowly through the lives of these infinitely dull characters, turning over each and every stone of their lives. In the meantime, there is the most obvious deus ex machina ever written waiting to explode onto the scene from the opening line. There is even a character named Cass(andra), after the Trojan prophetess whose prophecies no one heeded.
As such, the flatness of the characters and the story, the pointless plot, and the pretentiously sophomoric reflections on "counterfactuals" was just too much for me. I hated this book, even though some people will like (and maybe even love) it.
If Auster's 4,3,2,1 was a novel written by an author who is influenced by continental philosophy, then Day's If, Then is what happens when an author who is influenced by analytical philosophy decides, in turn, to write one. It is, as one might expect, f***ing awful.