Our lives are composed of oodles of decisions, made every single day. Most seem insignificant — Starbucks versus Tully’s for coffee? Vacation to Iceland versus Costa Rica? Take the highway or back roads to the office? The mystery in life is that you never really know when any one decision will alter the course of your life. And that is exactly where we begin in Laura Barnett’s, The Versions of Us. Eva and Jim have a chance encounter after Eva falls off her bike. What happens at this juncture splits into three separate alternate realities evolving over the course of a half a century:
- Version 1: After meeting Jim, they fall in love and Eva decides to part ways with her boyfriend, David.
- Version 2: Eva and Jim part ways after their chance meeting and Eva ends up marrying David.
- Version 3: Eva and Jim fall in love, but when she finds out she’s pregnant with David’s child, she abandons Jim and marries David.
One encounter and the resulting outcome leads to three separate trajectories for our characters. The ramification of small choices that reverberate through time and space. Told in alternating chapters, their lives weave in and out, intersecting at various points. Careers are launched. Careers flounder. Children are born. Relationships come. Relationships go. Infidelities abound.
In essence this can be considered three separate novellas wrapped up in one package. But Barnett cleverly ties them all together in one cohesive package by establishing several major milestones where the stories intersect — specifically at birthday bashes and funerals. In each version, these milestones are populated with the same characters, but with different exchanges and different outcomes.
Unfortunately, something must be sacrificed in order to accomplish this lofty goal of creating three separate stories, all linked together in one book. Barnett ends up having to skimp on details, creating a shallowness that prevented me from getting totally immersed in the book.
Whereas I was ambivalent to what happened to Jim, Eva and David in each of the three sub-plots, the book did make me question fate versus chance and paths taken and not taken. The bottom line is that each road has its ups and downs. It isn’t about taking the right or wrong road, it’s about making the most of the road that you chose for yourself.
And at some level, I would like to believe that regardless of which path you choose, there are some people that are meant to be in your life, and that they will somehow find a way to you. Despite all the decisions I made throughout my life, and all the paths not taken, I can’t imagine a version of my life without my soul mate.
Click below to pick up a copy of The Versions of Us at your local bookstore. My tip: Take notes along the way to stay engaged. I found it challenging to track the different outcomes, contributing to my indifference.