I adored Gabrielle Zevin's previous book, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry and was eager to read her just released novel, Young Jane Young.
We meet sixty four year old Rachel in the the opening chapters as she tries out online dating. I loved her sassy voice and dry sense of humour and found myself chuckling over her thoughts and comments. Her chapter then segues into the life of the next main character - her daughter Aviva. Aviva is working for a congressman - and crosses a line, having an affair with the married man. Her life goes off the rails from the fallout of this decision, until she decides to start over with a new name - Jane. She relocates in another state - and daughter Ruby is born. Jane's chapter segues into Ruby's. And the inevitable fate that awaits all three. The last viewpoint is that of the congressman's wife Embeth.
What a rich and varied story this was! Young Jane Young was an unexpected, unpredictable and yet very satisfying read. This one event effects all four leads in so many ways and their various outlooks, reactions and responses are dependent on each individual's age, experience and life philosophy. I loved each voice and was hard pressed to have a favourite. But, if forced to pick, I would have to say that I enjoyed Ruby the most. Her letters to her penpal are the basis for a lot of what she is feeling and doing and a lot of it is heartbreaking. I loved the insertion of epistolary elements. Zevin employs this for Aviva/Jane as well. We are privy to her journal, written in a Choose Your Own Adventure style. Choices are given and we see how and why her life took the path it did.
"The rub of the Choose Your Own Adventure stories is that if you don't make a few bad choices, the story will be terribly boring. If you do everything right and you're always good, the story will be very short."
Mother, daughters, friends, the path taken and not taken. The echoes of a choice made, the denial and acceptance that we can't change what has been done - only move forward.
Zevin's writing is wry, witty and peppered with truths. See for yourself - read an excerpt of Young Jane Young.
You can connect with Gabrielle Zevin on her website, find her on Facebook and like her on Twitter.