When Books and Life Collide

The last two books I read, though arguably different genres, ended up having some similar underlying themes and so I have some thoughts. Both books I read dealt with ideas of fate and destiny and parallel worlds. In A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray (review here), there is an invention called the Firebird, which allows for travel between different dimensions. In that book, there’s a discussion that even between those vastly different worlds, there are patterns. There’s a trend of people gravitating towards each other despite having made different choices. My most recent read was Just Like Fate by Cat Patrick and Suzanne Young, and this book is all about the idea of fate. The main character has an important decision to make, revolving around the failing health of her grandmother, and that choice divides the rest of the book in two as we follow the result of both possible outcomes. The series of events that follows results in the exploration of the idea that even if we make different choices in life, we can still end up in essentially the same place.

Does fate exist? This is something we’ve all thought about. It’s been discussed in TV, in movies (how many times have I seen Serendipity?) and no one really knows the answer. I don’t even know what I believe myself. I think the reason I want to believe in fate is that it brings with it a certain level of comfort. It’s reassuring to think that there’s a master plan for your life and that even if you’re responsible for your every day decisions, there isn’t much you can do to ultimately derail this.

I think there’s very much a reason I want to believe and it’s all a little personal so bear with me here. I’m 25, but I’m basically the equivalent of a college freshman. I walked the same path the rest of my friends did. I graduated from high school, I attended CEGEP (a 2 year college that is essentially grade 12 plus freshman year of university here in Quebec) and then I went to university. I never stopped to think about what I was doing. I chose a program I thought would be fine, and when I stopped doing well in school, which being smart was always my “thing”, I crashed hard. I developed some very bad study habits over my life and never did anything to fix them, so when I was studying something I didn’t like, things got worse. I kept thinking I was the problem, that I should be able to do this anyway. I didn’t realize what a toll it would take on me. I couldn’t seem to force myself to do the work, and felt anxious about it all constantly. It got to the point where I was just ignoring everything and thinking it would fix itself. I kept trying for YEARS. Finally, I decided I was done. I left school and decided I needed a break, at least for my sanity. In some ways it was a reprieve, in others not so much. My brother was on my case all the time, thinking that that constant pressure was the best thing for me. I think my mom didn’t know what to do with me. She later told me she didn’t think I would even go back to school, despite my having assured her time and time again.

Now to make a long story short (too late) I worked for a year and a half, and finally went back to school this past September to study business. I’m still not 100% sure it’s what I want to do, but I know better this time. I know to listen to myself and to realize that I’m not always the problem. Yes, I can work hard, but if something is not right, I need to change it. And I’m working hard to procrastinate less, because I really felt like I was on the edge of having a much more serious problem with anxiety back then. It’s not a perfect plan, and I’ll probably be close to 30 by the time I finally have my bachelor’s degree, but I finally feel right about what I’m doing, even if starting over is scary as hell.

So what does this have to do with fate? Well I often wonder, what did I do to my life when I made these decisions? Will I end up in the same place eventually, even with a 5 year detour? I really hope so. I hope that I would have found happiness then, and that I’ll find it now. If that’s the case, then I don’t mind that all I’ve done is stretch out my timeline. It’s scary to think that I’ve severely and permanently altered what I could have had, if only I’d learned to trust myself a bit earlier. On the other hand, I may not have been better off if I’d never learned these lessons. I still have to hold back the jealousy sometimes when I see my friends pursuing their master’s degrees and now PhDs, but I need to remind myself that not everyone has the same journey. It’s most definitely a process, but I’m getting there.

If you’ve made it to the end, thank you for reading. I’d really love to hear from you guys if you have anything to say. Maybe you have thoughts on the existence of destiny, or maybe you have your own story to share. Either way, I want to hear it!

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A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

A Thousand Pieces of You

Title: A Thousand Pieces of You
Author: Claudia Gray
Published: November 4, 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: gift from the lovely Tiff
Links: Claudia’s Twitter                                                                                                      Goodreads

 

Goodreads Description:

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, the killer—her parent’s handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite can’t let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul’s guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined. 

My Thoughts

First, can we talk about this cover? I think it might be the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I’ll admit, I didn’t look too closely at it before starting the book. If I had, I would have realized how much it tells you. The cover shows you two of the settings, London and St. Petersburg, and ties them together with a watercolour theme. This fits perfectly since our main character, Marguerite, is an artist. Her art shapes her views, and we see each new place through her eyes. Her art is also a reflection of herself, because though she remains genetically identical in each new world, she is shaped by the changes around her, which manifest through her art.

There is such infinite beauty in the concept of this book. The Firebird can take you to an endless number of dimensions, so long as your genetic self exists within that world. This leaves room for an incredible amount of creativity. Just think, if one of the greatest scientists of our time had never existed, would we be so technologically advanced? Or perhaps there was a scientific genius who was never born in our world, but existed in another. This planet would change drastically. It’s genius. It’s clear that Claudia Gray has done research for her book, but at the same time she has a certain creative license to make each world her own, because technically they never existed, so how can you be factually incorrect? Basically this book is a historical, futuristic sci-fi, contemporary novel. Didn’t you know that’s a thing?

In case it isn’t already obvious, I really enjoyed this book. I loved that it managed to have every element from family, to adventure and romance, and not feel too overwhelming. A lot of the story centers on Marguerite and her multidimensional pursuit, so what I’m looking forward to in the next book is a focus on the dynamics within the family, and an exploration of Marguerite’s relationship with her sister, Josie. As for the romance, things are complicated. Marguerite figures out her feelings over the course of the book in a very natural way, and it’s not nearly as love-triangly as you expect, which works in its favour. I would have liked the “romantic” moments to have been a bit more drawn out, personally.

There is a part of me that wishes A Thousand Pieces of You was a standalone, and not the first in a series. I feel that with some edits and another 50-100 pages, it probably could have been kept at one book. I think the part of me that wishes this is the part that doesn’t want to wait endlessly for more sequels so really it’s a selfish thing. I can’t actually complain if more books means more dimensions explored because I love the worlds that Claudia Gray has already created.

Spoiler Territory! Read at your own risk!

Even from the jacket description, you know there’s more to the story with Paul and Marguerite. What I thought was interesting was the idea that even if you’re physically the same person in another world, how much of the other you is in there. If Marguerite has fallen in love with one version, has she fallen in love with all of them? I think the answer is maybe 50% yes. I believe that we’re equally made up of who we are at birth and who we become through life. I got a little frustrated with Marguerite’s indecision when it came to Paul from her world, versus other dimension Paul that she came to love. I think she was so quick to love Paul 2.0 because she recognized her Paul in him from the beginning. I just wanted to shake her when she couldn’t realize this.

Quotable Moment

A Thousand Pieces of You-Quote

Have you read A Thousand Pieces of You or any other Claudia Gray book? This was my first!

What genre would you consider this book to be? 

Leave me your thoughts below!