Replay – Ken Grimwood

There is considerable burnout from writing this blog. It is sometimes truly a slog to get to 400 words about a book I just finished. And then there are times when I put a book down and feel just flooded with thoughts an opinions, so much so that I am not actually sure where to begin.

Years ago, a friend read a short story of mine and accused it of being cliche. Maybe it was, but at the time I didn’t feel it. I asked him if he could name another story like it, and I got an answer along the lines of ‘that’s not really the point’. He was right on both accounts – the story was, and it was so despite whether or not there was another story out there like it. It felt cliche.

Ken Grimwood’s Replay looks like it might be cliche at first glance. It is the story of a person reliving their life again and again, and follows their attempt at getting it right. This is the exact same premise of Claire North’s The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, and it is if you are in the business of reducing things that much. The books could not be more different. I enjoyed both books equally, but North’s went for something much more adventurous, while Grimwood’s focuses more on the personal relationships and drama of one individual. The execution really does make all the difference, and I could not stress enough just to what extent these two felt like completely different novels.

Of course, the protagonist of Replay does want answers as to what is happening to him – as we all would. The author gives a pretty funny red herring for that in the middle of the book, and then keeps the story personal and emotional. What this ends up being is a book about the questions of how to life your life – in other words, a very “middle-aged person’s” book. This book is fueled by the thoughts people have when they start to get the impression that there is now more life behind them than in front of them. Grimwood really beats you over the head with the point he was trying to make, which wouldn’t have bothered me so much were it not a point I so strongly disagreed with. Maybe it is because I am very quickly getting to that middle aged chip on my shoulder for everything I still haven’t done (for the record, I am not middle-aged yet, and I still see a whole lot of closed doors around me).

Sigh. I get Grimwood’s point, and I liked the story, I really did. But there is truly something that does not work with what Jeff Winston preaches at the end of this novel. It felt like a billionaire trying to talk to me about the virtue of living within one’s means. Like I said, this was truly a ‘right time right place’ kind of book for me, but it ignores much of what makes this stage in a person’s life difficult – the fact that you are shackled to the chains of your past.

Well, I don’t think you need to hit the moral EXACTLY right for a person to enjoy something. I enjoyed the hell out of this book, even if it’s lesson was a bit silly.

Frankly, I have no idea. And I am happy this way.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s