What about you? When things get a little crazy, don’t you want to start over, shake your life like dice in a cup, and start over? Even if you’re in a good situation, imagining a total breakup can be a lot of fun. It’s the ultimate act of defiance against death, because potential is almost always linked to youth. We are born into a Pangaea of possibilities. The choices we make, and the years that go by, break continents away from under our feet until we are each standing on a small personal island of our own identity. There, we are thought to be in our final form and can be said to have come to an end. You don’t have a “midlife crisis” when you want to change who you are, but you do have a “cri de coeur” from that island that says, “I’m more than I seem.” The world is bigger than this, even though.
Upheaval can raise fundamental questions about who you are. Our small islands have been shaped by us, but we have been shaped by them as well. In my book, The Possible World, three characters are suddenly thrust into new lives. Six-year-old Ben is the only survivor of a brutal crime; his doctor, Lucy, is facing the end of her marriage; and centenarian Clare, who has a story of her own, has secrets that will affect the other two. All of them have a hard time remembering, figuring out who they are, and finding a way forward into their new lives. It’s possible that we read about disruption in order to avoid having to go through it ourselves, Here are some books that let you experience mayhem and renewal through the eyes of someone else.
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (2014)
Story of Ursula Todd, who is born and dies in 1910 and then reborn into the same life, but each time things go a little bit differently. It’s a great story! It’s a question the reader wonders about as the world moves through one war and then another. It is a work of art. I think you should listen to the audiobook. Fenella Woolgar, the narrator, does a great job.
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (2017)
As a 30-year-old weirdo, we might feel sorry for Eleanor, who lives alone and drinks vodka on weekends. It’s hilarious, surprising, and poignant when Eleanor gets a sudden crush on a pop star and decides to change herself. In the book, Eleanor says “loneliness is the new cancer.” There is a lot of sadness in the book, but it is balanced out by hope. Eleanor is a modern hero because she is damaged, quirky, and most of all, strong.
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
In the 1950s, Nathan Price takes his wife and four daughters from the United States to the Congo. The prices fall into Africa as if they were babies that fell into the jaws of crocodiles. This is a coming-of-age story in quadruple, as well as a story about colonial arrogance. Here, a family tries new things, and also a country: the stunning backdrop is a culture that is going through a lot of changes of its own.
Jasmine by Bharati Mukherjee (1989)
It’s a dark story about an Indian teenager who is suddenly alone and decides to follow her late husband’s long-held dream of moving from Punjab to Florida. Jane, a 24-year-old Iowa housewife, is the last person she changes into. She goes from Jyoti into Jasmine, Jazzy, and Jase, then back to Jane. Her journey brings her to a point where she must choose which of her many selves is real and which life can claim to be hers.
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts (2003)
An Australian prison escapee who gets off a train in Bombay is the subject of this long book. It tells about how he ends up in the middle of the chaos. He goes into the city and hides out in the slums and does a vigorous exile. In this story, the author is an Australian who escaped from prison and lived in Bombay for a decade. The story is told with an irresistible, “Can you believe it?” grin. The line between truth and fiction is becoming more and more blurred. Best not to think about it, but just hold on for the long, wild ride.
Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala (2013)
During Boxing Day 2004, the tsunami killed the woman’s parents, husband, and two young sons. This is the memoir of the woman who was a daughter, wife, and mother at the same time. She goes a little crazy in this short book, which is kind of like a howl. You wouldn’t think that anyone could go through this without going crazy. It’s also a brave look at grief, and a beautiful way to remember her lost friends and family.
Fifty Acres and a Poodle by Jeanne Marie Laskas (2000)
A forty-something city dweller who has always wanted to live in the country drives by a beautiful farm one day and decides to buy it. She and her boyfriend change their lives, and though the story of how they did it is very funny at times, it’s not a slapstick romp. It’s a heartwarming and funny testament to the beauty of the unexpected and the rewards of following your heart. There is, in fact, a poodle in the book. He is the star of one of the book’s funniest stories, and he is very cute.
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce (2012)
When Harold, a 65-year-old man who “doesn’t know anyone anywhere,” gets a rose-pink envelope, it shakes up his boring life. When he decided to walk 600 miles to answer the letter, it turned out to be a very interesting, funny, and sometimes moving story. There are actually two pilgrims in this book: Harold, who is walking through the beautiful countryside, and his wife, who is still at home. Both of them are struggling with buried sorrows and looking for redemption. A book that is very heartfelt and very fun to read.
His Illegal Self by Peter Carey (2008)
Che Selkirk didn’t know his parents, who were outlaw hippie terrorists who left him to live with his wealthy grandmother. As a child, when he opens the door to his home in New York, he thinks it’s his mother. He’s eight years old at the time. When he has a chance to run away with her, he takes it. The two run around the world, avoiding the police, until they end up in the Australian wild. In a few days, Che goes from a well-to-do American to a dirty child savage. A very interesting and complex book.
Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood (1976)
From the start, “I planned my death very carefully,” the book makes the reader think about Joan Foster, a person who likes to keep things quiet. She is a well-known poet, a beautiful woman, and a married woman, but she hides a history of obesity, an infidelity, and a successful career as a romantic novelist. Tripping over her own lies, she fakes her own death and flees to Italy. There, Joan’s memories cloud her new life in a way she didn’t expect, and she realizes that there may be a limit to how much she can change herself. Wickedly clever, this is a great Atwood book from the start.