On the surface, it may seem strange to pair reviews of Bradstreet Gate, a debut murder mystery by Robin Kirman, and Maybe In Another Life, a semi-romantic novel about fate by Taylor Jenkins Reid, who also wrote After I Do and Forever, Interrupted. The truth is that both of these novels are about choices and how even the smallest choice made on a whim or without much forethought can have a profound and unpredictable effect on our lives. I realize that these two genres may appeal to very different readers; however, you may want to take a look at a genre you don’t normally read in this case. See what you think…
Maybe in Another Life features Hannah Martin, who now lives in Los Angeles. It’s the sixth city she’s lived in since graduating from college but this one feels right – finally. I guess it should since it’s her hometown. Can you really go home again? She’s going to find out while she camps out in her best friend Gabby’s guest room. Gabby is really more than a friend. It’s complicated but she’s more like family than Hannah’s real family…more like a sister than Hannah’s real sister.
“Now Gabby grabs my hand for a moment and squeezes it, keeping her eye on the road. ‘I’m proud of you that you’re taking control of your life,’ she says. ‘Just by getting on the plane this morning, you’re getting your life together.’
‘You think so?’ I ask.
She nods. ‘I think Los Angeles will be good for you. Don’t you? Returning to your roots. It’s a crime we’ve lived so far apart for so many years. You’re correcting an injustice.’
I laugh. I’m trying to see this move as a victory instead of a defeat.”
Hannah’s also had a slew of different jobs and hasn’t been able to settle on a career. At twenty-nine, she still can’t figure out what she wants to do with her life. It’s such a critical decision. She’s very creative and has a lot to offer if she can just pin down which direction to take. So much rides on that decision, and that may be the crux of the problem – the pressure to make the right decision is making it hard to make any decision.
When Gabby takes her to a local bar to celebrate her return, Hannah runs into her high-school boyfriend, Ethan. Although they’ve talked by phone since she got back to LA, it’s the first time they’ve seen each other in a long time. They both feel an immediate reconnection – it’s as if they were never separated, well, almost. As the night wears on, Gabby is ready to leave. Should Hannah leave with Gabby or take Ethan up on his offer of a ride home if she stays later with him.
Hannah has to make a decision that doesn’t seem that crucial – not really. What will happen if she leaves with Gabby? Does she run the risk of losing touch with Ethan again? On the other hand, what will happen if she stays later and leaves with Ethan? She doesn’t want him to be a rebound from her last disastrous relationship so she isn’t sure what to do. Will she be taking things too fast? There’s a reason they broke up long ago – is it smart to stay with him or should she think more about this whole thing when she can get some perspective outside of the bar. What to do? And how will this decision change her life?
We get to see what happens to Hannah’s life, depending on which decision she makes. In one life, Ethan’s offer is definitely tempting but Hannah decides to be smart about whether to jump back into a relationship with him, so she leaves with Gabby and the consequences for everyone involved based on that decision begin to play out that same night. In another possible life, Hannah tells Gabby to leave without her and she stays with Ethan. That decision also has consequences that alter the lives of everyone involved. Is Ethan her soul mate or just an ex-boyfriend? How will her decision affect their relationship or whether they have one?
If you’ve ever wondered how your life might have been different if you had made different decisions along life’s journey, I think Maybe In Another Life is going to be a fascinating read for you. I live my life so I will have no regrets, making conscious decisions as much as possible. That just means that I do the best I can with what I have to work with at the moment, which is what I think we all ultimately do.
I have made big decisions at certain points in my life which might have taken it in an entirely different direction. Would it have been a better or worse direction? Who knows and speculating about that has no benefit. Still it’s thought provoking to read a novel where even a seemingly small choice can have life altering consequences. I’m recommending Maybe In Another Life because it’s very well written with characters who will grab you and, basically, because I couldn’t put it down.
The second novel we’re reviewing today is Bradstreet Gate, a debut murder mystery by Robin Kirman. At first glance a murder mystery would seem to have nothing in common with Maybe In Another Life, yet underneath there are some common threads because it’s all about the choices we make in life. That said, this is a much darker story with sinister threads that reach deep into the underbelly of academia – even Ivy League academia.
The setting for Bradstreet Gate is Harvard University. Like most students who arrive at Harvard, Georgia, Charlie and Alice all arrive with great expectations and a little trepidation about what their life there will be like and where getting a degree from a prestigious university like Harvard will lead. They become tight friends and support each other through the trials of college life. They’re swiftly approaching graduation when the unthinkable happens. A girl is murdered on campus. Not only that, but a professor who has served as a mentor is the prime suspect. The very foundation of their reality is shaken – how could he possibly be a suspect? If he’s a murderer, how could they have been so wrong and have put their trust in him? Surely they aren’t that naïve, are they?
The truth is that, as close as these three friends have seemed, each has deep secrets they’ve kept from the other two – and some of those secrets are earthshaking. They have each made choices they don’t want the other two to know about. Could those choices have led to a murder, even inadvertently?
After they leave Harvard and enter their adult lives, the choices they made, the secrets they’ve kept, and the murder continue to haunt each of them. Those things directly affect the choices they make, which in turn determine their paths. They can’t let go of what happened and what each believes may have been their role in it. Can they eventually come clean with each other, forgive each other, and/or forgive themselves? Or will they carry their secrets throughout their lives, punishing themselves over what they each imagine they have caused to happen? Last, but definitely not least, what becomes of the accused professor because of what happened? Is he indeed the murderer, or was it someone else? If it was someone else, who?
“’Miss Calvin? I’m Nat Krauss.’ He shifted his knapsack to offer her his hand. ‘I left a message I’d be coming.’
There had been several messages, in fact, from a young man at the Crimson: she’d erased them all without playing them through. Only one matter ever brought reporters calling, though years had passed since anyone had tried.
This May, it would be ten years, exactly, since Julie Patel’s murder. Georgia always marked the day, May 5, and made sure flowers were delivered to the family…”
“Georgia caught him [the reporter] watching her again, a more prurient curiosity shone in his expression.
It was a look that she remembered, encountered often after the murder, in the faces of strangers who’d linked her to the figure in the news…”
Bradstreet Gate kept me up all night because I could not put it down, for an entirely different reason from the other novel being reviewed. This murder mystery/thriller wrapped me up tight in its tentacles of scandal, deceit, betrayal, and twisty turns, and would not let me go. As I watched a professor’s career demolished, I was torn. This was not a blameless person by any means. He loved his students quite literally, if you know what I mean; however, I wasn’t sure he had murdered one of them – or had he? Could another student have been so jealous and possessive that she or he had murdered the girl instead? Where was the truth underneath all of the layers of secrets and lies? I had to find out…and I could only learn clues as the three friends uncovered clues. Agh! Someone knew what had really happened, but who?
I’m recommending this debut novel. It’s very well written, featuring characters you may waffle about like I did, i.e., they’re not one-dimensional good or bad but a mix like real people are. They kept me intrigued and determined to solve the puzzle. If you enjoy playing amateur detective, here’s your chance. Have fun with all the twists and turns…
The common thread between these two novels is our choices, even the smallest ones. Every day we make hundreds if not thousands of choices and each one makes a difference in not just our life but in the lives of all around us. Sometimes the difference is a wonderful one, sometimes it’s a minor one, and sometimes it’s not so great to put it mildly. All choices have a ripple effect that we can’t anticipate or even begin to imagine. It’s a good thing we don’t know the extent of the consequences of our decisions because that would likely paralyze us. Still, it makes for riveting reading. Enjoy!
Can’t wait to read one or both of these novels? Bradstreet Gate & Maybe In Another Life are both available in all formats from your favorite online bookseller below. Just click the link to go get them now.
I’d love to get your comments on Bradstreet Gate , Maybe In Another Life, Robin Kirman, Taylor Jenkins Reid, and/or Ms. Reid’s other work, and/or this review.