Title: The Post-Birthday World
Author: Lionel Shriver
Release Date: March 13, 2007
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Literary Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
From the back cover:
American children’s book illustrator Irina McGovern enjoys a secure, settled life in London with her smart, loyal, disciplined partner, Lawrence—until the night she finds herself inexplicably drawn to kissing another man, a passionate, extravagant, top-ranked snooker player. Two competing alternate futures hinge on this single kiss, as Irina’s decision—to surrender to temptation or to preserve her seemingly safe partnership with Lawrence—will have momentous consequences for her career, her friendships and familial relationships, and the texture of her daily life.
When I first started The Post-Birthday World, I didn’t know what to expect. It was a long book, and within the first 50 pages, I could tell it was going to be a slow novel. However, as I got into it, I realized that it was a meticulously crafted novel that was as provocative as it was intricate.
The Post-Birthday World is basically a story of alternate futures that hinge on a single moment: whether Irina chooses to kiss Ramsey Acton, a man who is friends with her husband. In one future, she doesn’t kiss him and in the other future she does. The split is told in alternating chapters, reviewing the same events through the lens of each future. It’s an incredibly interesting way to tell a story – you don’t have to think “what if” because you know what if.
The end message of The Post-Birthday World is incredibly interesting. Basically, it makes you ask whether it even matters. Yes, one choice can change the events in your life drastically, but will it really change its course? Can one choice change the end result, or will you end at the same place regardless of what choices you make?
The Post-Birthday World is long, but it’s completely engrossing. It’s a very thoughtful book; it would actually make a great book club read. There’s a lot of material here to discuss: in which future was Irina better off? Does her choice actually make a difference? If you’ve read this book, feel free to discuss in the comments (though if your comment contains a spoiler, please say so!)