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If, Then
by Kate Hope Day
Random House, $26.00, 256 pp
Published: March 2019

This is one of those stories that has trouble finding a niche.  Since it has the element of parallel worlds, it gets shuffled into speculative fiction aka science fiction.  The trouble is…it won’t really satisfy those of us who do enjoy alternate reality stories; it hasn’t enough substance.

Four people in a small mountain town in Oregon start seeing themselves in an alternate world and it changes their life choices.  But the glimpses they get have little or no context so they interpret the best they can; leaving the reader to wonder if they interpreted rightly.  Ginny is a dedicated surgeon who becomes attracted to a female coworker which affects her already unstable marriage – and it seems that the attraction only surfaced because she saw a glimpse of the two women in a happy relationship.  Ginny’s husband, Mark, is a wildlife scientist who has been monitoring animal behavior around the local, supposedly dormant, volcano.  He sees himself in another reality that tells him that his research is critical, although no one believes him.  His paranoia over a possible impending eruption almost destroys his relationship with his wife and son.  Samara is struggling with her beloved mother’s death and her father’s almost cavalier attitude to her loss.  Her visions cause her to question everything she thought she knew about her mother.  And Cass – a brilliant scholar – is raising her child alone and wondering if there is anything left of her academic plans.  About the time she decides to go back to her research, she sees herself pregnant again.  And in some obscure, unexplained way, the volcano’s eruption is the cause of the visions.

I was not very invested in any of the characters; the plot was thin and overall, it was not an interesting story.  The promotional materials tout that there is interest in developing the story for television.  But these days, almost anything is fodder for the television.  I don’t take that as a strong recommendation.    ~~ Catherine Book

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