Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

At our house we tend to have unusual conversations.  One recent conversation was about the 4th, 5th, and 6th dimensions and what they might be.  One of my children’s teachers had suggested that the 5th dimension might be described as the various other directions in which time may have gone rather than the one in which it ended up flowing.  Time flows like a river in a stream and every day, multiple times a day, things could go in more than one direction.  A decision is made, an event occurs, a thought leads to an action and so time flows in a certain way, according to the will of God.  But what if a different decision had been made or a different event had occurred, or a different thought had led to action, then time may have gone in a different direction.

The various different directions in which time might flow is the premise of Kate Atkinson’s brilliant novel, Life After Life.  Ursula Todd is born to a typical upper middle class family in early 20th century England.  And she dies at birth.  So Time gives her another chance and she is born again in slightly different circumstances and lives until she dies in a childhood accident.  Then she is born again.  And so it goes.  Again and again, Ursula is born, lives a certain set of circumstances, dies at a young age, and then is born again.  It is as if Time is giving her a chance to live her life over and over until she gets it right.  After several “lives” Ursula begins to sense echoes from past lives which help direct hear in future lives.  What is most interesting about the book is the way the author is able to keep the consistency of the main characters in each life–the flightly, pleasure-seeking aunt, the loving, steady father, the favorite younger brother, Ursula herself as well as other main characters in her life–all live different timestreams but are recognizably themselves in each time.   The characterization is the book’s greatest strength.  I thought some of the “lives” Ursula lived were not quite in character but overall, they fit in with her personality.

This book was a page-turner.  Although I don’t have a lot of free reading time, I couldn’t put it down for long and ended up reading at every available moment until I finished it.  Interesting and thought-provoking although not at all consistent with a Biblical worldview.  However, it was a good book and I’m glad I read it.  Recommended.

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2 thoughts on “Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

  1. I just saw this book in the bookstore yesterday. I was tempted to buy it but I hadn’t heard anything about it and the blurb on the back was confusing so I put it back on the shelf. I just might go back and get it now.

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