Rachel Wiltshire is living a sad life after a disastrous accident. No, she is fine (save for a scar) but saving her life cost dear friend Jimmy his own. Rachel has since broken off with steady boyfriend Matt, and has almost cut off ties with other friends of the same group. One day Rachel has an accident in the subway. When she comes to in the hospital, she wakes up to an alternate reality. She is not the same person when was before, and nor is anyone else. Try as she might, Rachel is unable to get used to this reality; it is like living an impostor’s life.
“The Time Traveller’s Wife” is one of my favorite books and “Sliding Doors” was a great film. So yes, the time-shifting/alternate reality concept does appeal to me. No wonder then that I decided to review Then And Always. Unfortunately, inspite of the tantalizing premise this book didn’t work for me.
The characters seemed clichéd and trite, and we never quite get to know them very well. There is some insight to Rachel’s character, but I didn’t like her very much. She was a wilting, whining heroine, given to faints and swoons, and the general concept of belonging to a man – quite surprising given that she is a full-fledged adult holding down a job and earning her own keep. She seemed to depend on men, to fetch and carry and help in all tasks.
The book read like a Young Adult novel, with the love triangle, and the adults sounding like emotional, lovesick teenagers. The book also suffered from awkward construction of the plot and plot devices. In the scene where Rachel sees a car approaching, headed for the restaurant where they are seated, the car seems to take forever to get to them – which is odd, considering that this is a town, and the car would have to be pretty close to be even seen. Next Rachel finds her path being blocked by a chair, impeding her escape. This again was problematic, because a chair is not a wall; chairs and tables can be jumped over, especially in life threatening situations. Logistical oddities like these created believability problems. I am surprised that editing did not catch many of the superficial problems.
That said, I did continue on till the end, because I was curious to see how the author would resolve the alternate reality issue. The ending did not meet my expectations, however. This book might work when perceived as a Young Adult romance; as a full fledged story on alternate realities, it falls short.