My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I stayed up all night reading this 424-page novel because I was so drawn into the story that I could not put it down. The basic premise is that a young woman named Luna, who lives in England and works as a physicist, loses her mother to suicide. Before she and her sister Pia travel to Brooklyn, New York, to settle the estate, Luna views footage from a film their mother made as a goodbye. In this footage, the mother alludes to a terrible event from the past, and reveals that the man Luna always knew as her dad is not her biological father. The footage ends with the cryptic words: "If you look very hard you will find me in Brooklyn.....if you want to look after you know what I did....He wouldn't let me go, you see. Find me...please."
Luna senses a deep dread and a primal knowledge upon hearing this message. Her fear stems from the fact that she has been experiencing intermittent flashes and odd, disorienting episodes that suggest that she may have the ability to travel back in time. In fact, as soon as Luna and Pia are in Brooklyn, Luna has the same strange, familiar flashes, which intensify as she approaches the building where their mother once lived. She hears the song "Hotel California" coming from her mother's building. There she encounters unusual furnishings and a group of young people in late 70s attire, and she realizes that she has landed in 1977. She is stunned to discover that the woman she sees sitting on the back of a brown sofa is her mother. When their eyes meet. Luna sees that her mother, Marissa ("Riss"), is free-spirited and lighthearted, unlike anything Luna remembers from her late mother's affect. This makes it immediately clear to Luna that Riss has not yet experienced the trauma that altered her personality and eventually drove her to kill herself. It is obvious to the reader that whatever happened to Riss resulted in Luna's conception. (A major hint is disclosed early on: Luna is the only member of her family with blue eyes).
When Luna and Pia meet the lawyer who is handling the estate and the sale of their mother's building, they are given a box labeled "To My Daughters" in their mother's handwriting. It contains four reels of Super-Eight film, a projector and a battery pack. When the sisters watch the first film, they see their mother and hear her tell them the story of what happened to her in 1977 that destroyed her life. Now knowing the truth, a horrified Luna resolves to rewrite time in order to save Riss from the experience that drove her to take her own life in middle age, even though this will eradicate Luna's very existence.
Luna discovers the identity of her birth father. She travels back to 1977 several times; inevitably she and Riss are drawn together and bond. This strengthens Luna's determination to find her birth father and prevent Riss from ever meeting him. The blue-eyed man revealed as her father comes as a shock to the reader - at least to me. At this point, I was unable to stop reading.
Each time Luna goes back in time, something is altered about the past. (This is reminiscent of Stephen King's 11/22/63). I won't reveal any more of the details; suffice to say that Luna falls in love with one of her mother's male friends from the past, and she encounters older versions of these individuals when she is in the present time. Just when everything seems to fall into place, a shocking twist occurs, and the book's resolution left me reeling.
I will admit that even though I caught some hints early on, I was so drawn into the story that I suspended my imagination and went for the ride. I'm glad I did, and even happier that I didn't glance ahead (as I often do) to see how things would end.
The odd thing about this book is that it came out this past summer, and I was unable to buy it on Amazon; I had to get it from England. I am still pondering this. I am also eager for the movie that I hope will follow. This is by far the best book I have read in 2017; I will add that I've already read Rowan Coleman's earlier books and was already enchanted by her writing. This book will resonate with anyone who loved The Time Traveler's Wife and 11/22/63. I am looking for more of Rowan Coleman's work; needless to say, I highly recommend this novel!
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