I'm tempted to file this under "horror". I'm still collecting my thoughts about this one.
Jeff Winston dies in Oct, 1988. And finds himself back in 1963, in his college dorm room, reliving his whole life over again. Freaked out beyond words at first, he slowly begins to realise he's got the chance to start with a clean slate, to do things differently this time. Only it doesn't end. He dies and relives his life over and over and over again.
What would you do if you had to relive your life? Would you make money by gambling off big sport events? Would you take that Art course you always wished you had taken up? Would you try and prevent World disasters and save millions of lives in the process? What about the people you come to love, children you bear and raise, knowing fully well you'll die again soon? But where would it stop, when would it stop? How long can you endure living and dying repeatedly?
Ken Grimwood skillfully takes us through Jeff's, and Pamela's (another "replayer"), journey making us question our choices in life and missed opportunities in the process. He subtly reminds us that our time on this earth is short and shouldn't be wasted in doing things that bring us no happiness. A bit preachy, but it works.
Here's a quick review of the book by a critic, that I found on Wikipedia, which perfectly sums up my thoughts about it in a way I'm unable to -
"Yet in spite of all the pain and anguish we go through as we follow Jeff through his search for an understanding of why he is replaying his life, the book has some important things to say to the reader. First, life is full of endless happenings that we have little control over. We should live our lives with our eyes set upon the horizon and never look back, controlling those things we can and giving no second thought to those events out of our hands.
Second, given that we only have one life to live (Jeff is never sure he will replay again with each heart attack) we should live it to the fullest extent possible and with the least regret for our actions. Everybody makes mistakes; the point is not to dwell on them but to pick ourselves up and keep on going. Keep moving ahead.
Third, choices must be made — we cannot avoid them. The only failure is to live a life without risks. In fact, I believe Jeff Winston would advise risking everything for those you love and for the life you want for them and with them. To not experience risk is to fail. And what does Replay have to say to a poor, old man like me who is still going though his mid-life crisis? Just this — that every year will be new. Every day a new chance to begin again. There can be no mid-life crisis when we are living each day to the fullest extent possible.
From what Jeff Winston has taught me, I would define mid-life crisis as a period of selfishness when we turn inward and think only of ourselves. Jeff inspires us to look outward toward others and think less of ourselves.
If YOU had to relive your life, what would you do differently?