I’m a well known fan of Groundhog Day, and I’ve loved seeing just how many time loop movies have come out since Phil first went to Punxsutawney. However, I haven’t seen much in the way of books that cover the same ground, so when I read the description of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, I was more than a little intrigued.
The premise is fascinating. A select number of people in the world live their lives over and over and over again. Every time they die, they are reborn back on their original birthday, under their original circumstances. From then on, they are free to make different decisions than they originally made, though they remember all their previous lives. This essentially makes them much, much older than they appear, as a ten year old boy might in fact be on his seventh life, and have over 400 years of experience and memories to draw upon.
The book traces fifteen run throughs of one of those people: Harry August. The first part of the novel is mostly focused on showing how such a life would work. What trials and advantages would come with it. How exactly such an existence would play out. (In this way, it reminded me a little of the first half of Flatland, though not nearly as cerebral as that was.) Once you’ve got the hang of what’s going on, a new conflict is introduced: something has gone wrong in the future, and these special people are trying to do what they can to fix it by sending messages to the past.
I don’t want to go into any more detail than that, but that should be enough to give you a taste of what to expect.
The book is written in a non-linear fashion, which makes for a bit of a bewildering experience, and was my only real critique of the novel. Not that it makes it too confusing. In a way, I enjoyed seeing bits and pieces of the whole revealed over the course of the read, but it was a bumpy experience at times, and I would have liked to have it smoother.
That aside, it’s a terrific read and well worth your time. 9/10
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