I know that I haven’t written a review in almost 9 months, but I felt compelled after reading Replay, by Ken Grimwood, that I had to say something.
The basic plot is as follows, Jeff Winston has a troubled marriage and in 1988 dies of a heart attack while on the phone with his wife. Instead of actually dying he reappears back in his own body, when he was 18 years old back in 1963. He has all the memories of his previous life and “gets” to replay his life. If this sounds like Groundhog Day it should, although the book came out in 1987, 6 years before the movie. Unlike in Groundhog day, Jeff doesn’t reset every day, but lives his entire life over again, until his heart attack in 1988 and then replays his life again, and again, and again.
While this may not be the most unique plot line, the way that Grimwood makes each of Jeff’s replays different, built upon the mistakes and success of the previous replay. He does what is predictable at first, make large wagers on sporting events, look up old loved ones etc.. He makes a lot of money, falls in love and starts all over again, back as an 18 year old college student. He tries to change history, save people’s lives, help governments and then starts all over again, as a college student back in the 60’s. The people he knows have no memory of him, yet he knows everything that will happen to them. Some replays are more successful then others, but they keep starting all over again completely out of his control or understanding. Without giving anything away, Grimwood manages to end the book, and all of Jeff’s replays with a very satisfying and agreeable ending.
What really got me thinking was not just about the book, which I really enjoyed and would heartily recommend to any sci-fi/time travel fan, but about the idea of replaying your life over again. My friend Simon, who gave me the book, asked me what I would do if I “woke up with another bite of the apple”… that’s what I’ve been thinking about. This book, coupled with just seeing About Time, also about time traveling in your own body… The caveat is that you reappear back in your own body as a freshman in college, so in my case in 1990. No going back and stopping Hitler, no seeing the Beatles, nor cutting down cherry trees with George Washington, but you do get to keep your memories from each life you live.
This is what I would do, in no particular order…
I’d be an amazing cook
I read every book that I could possible imagine, the classics, every genre, trade manuals…
Learn to fish and fly
See amazing music… Nirvana, Grateful Dead, early Phish, Beasties, Jane’s Addiction, (more) coherent Dylan, Lou Reed, Michael Jackson, Miles Davis, Springsteen’s Seeger Sessions…
somehow sit down to dinner with authors I respect and peer into their heads, (thinking about Atwood, Vonnegut, Murakami, and of course Douglas Adams)
pull the fire alarm at the World Trade Center at 8:15 on Sept. 11 2001
See every corner of the Earth, rich and poor
Be in Haiti when the earthquake hit in 2010
Watch the Red Sox win the World Series in 2004
Write my own book on something
Learn to play guitar…really well
Be a doctor
Hike the AT
Do a lot of drugs
Build my own house
Love my wife
study and convert to every religion I could think of
eat at every 5***** restaurant I could.
Be in Tahrir Square during the Arab Spring.
(make a lot of bets on sporting events and buy stocks that I knew the results of so that I could fund all the other items)
What would you do on your replay???