Friday, April 12, 2024

Book Review: Begin Again

By Jami Denison

“Bad idea, Eve. Put the apple down and let’s pretend this never happened.” As the first human, Adam was probably also the first person to wonder how his life would have turned out if he’d zigged instead of zagged—in his case, yanking the apple from Eve’s hand and continuing to live out life in the Garden of Eden. Would his son Cain have turned out murderous if they had stayed away from that tree? 

“What if” plots have been popular in all sorts of media, from the movie Sliding Doors to the bestselling The Midnight Library. Now British romcom author Helly Acton has put her own stamp on this story with Begin Again.

Celebrity gossip columnist Frankie McKenzie is brilliant at writing click-bait headlines, but in managing her own life, not so much. Stuck at the same job for twelve years, watching her friends couple up and have children and buy real estate, Frankie feels that life is passing her by in a series of bad dates and Netflix marathons. After she runs out on a blind date (even though it was going pretty well), Frankie manages to kill herself by slipping on a greasy kebab and landing on her head. She finds herself in a way station where she has the choice of visiting every turning point in her life for 24 hours and seeing if things would have turned out better if she’d chosen differently. If she likes her new life better, she can keep it. But for a person who shies away from decisions, can Frankie make the most important decision of all?

Begin Again is basically a funny version of The Midnight Library, with a predictable and formulaic plot. While Frankie is not the same sad sack that Midnight Library’s Nora was, her challenge is the same: to figure out which version of her life leads to love, happiness, and success. Books like these always remind me a bit of The Wizard of Oz, specifically Glinda telling Dorothy that she had the power all along. And Frankie, who has friends who love her and an interesting job, has power that she doesn’t recognize. While she lacks self-confidence, she’s funny and loyal. Her problem isn’t that she didn’t marry her college boyfriend, it’s that she doesn’t believe in herself. 

The message in these types of books is clear: Wherever you go, there you are. It may take death and some kind of divine intercession for book characters to realize this, but we readers don’t have those options. Reading books like Begin Again serve as this reminder: You can’t change your past, but you can change your future. Just find the yellow brick road and start walking. 

Thanks to William Morrow for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Helly Acton:

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.

Listen to this book on Speechify!

No comments: