The Other Year, a review by Sherry

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The Other Year
Rea Frey

336 pages
Harper Muse
published August 15, 2023

Amazon | Goodreads

What a unique premise.  A little like a build you own adventure, but not really.  Have you wondered what your life might be like if you made a different choice?  I enjoyed this dual look into Kate’s life with one timeline being if her daughter drowned on vacation and the other if she hadn’t.  It was an emotional read as the timeline where Kate’s daughter dies is quite focused on her grief and guilt and the people that surround her and support her through the next year.  And you get a look into the same time period if she lived.  And it wasn’t always what I expected.

As I looked at Kate’s two lives side by side, we see the good and the bad of her daughter surviving in the one but in the grief ridden one, she seems to remember a much different daughter than what is reality in the other.  I both listened and read this one and I must give a nod to Brittany Pressley and her terrific narration.  I’ve always liked her as a narrator, but with the two timelines being so different, it was her range was apparent of what a good job she did with both timelines.

The timeline where her daughter drowned are very emotional and at times were almost too much, but then that chapter would end and the chapters with her daughter alive would focus on the struggles of a parent with a child that is growing up,

This would be a great book club pick with a lot of thought provoking scenarios to discuss.

About the book

Can the entire course of a life be traced back to a single moment?

On a coveted two-week beach vacation, working mom Kate Baker’s nine-year-old daughter, Olivia, vanishes suddenly among the waves—a heart-dropping incident that threatens to uproot her entire reality. But in the next moment, Olivia resurfaces, joyously splashing.

What would I do if she didn’t come up? Kate wonders. How would I live without her?

In another set of circumstances that hold a different fate, Kate doesn’t have to wonder. Because in that “other” world, in the pulse-pounding seconds after Olivia goes under, she doesn’t come back up.

Told in parallel timelines, Kate begins to live two lives—one in which Olivia resurfaces and one in which she doesn’t. In the reality that follows her daughter’s death, she maneuvers through every mother’s worst nightmare, facing grief, rage, and the ques­tion of purpose in the aftermath of such profound loss. She endures, day by day, in a world without her daughter.

In her alternate timeline, while she explores a tremulous romance with her best friend, Jason, she finds herself grappling with the ex-husband who abandoned Kate and Olivia years prior. Even as Kate scrambles to hold her daughter close, Olivia pulls further away. The line between joy and loss seems to get thinner with each passing day.

Woven into a single story, both Kates discover a breathtaking fragility and resilience in their respective journeys. Bringing to light the drastic polarities dire circumstances often create, The Other Year explores truths about love, loss, and the sharp turns any life can take in the blink of an eye.

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