Back Again by Susan May is a full length (379 pages) novel that I have been waiting to read. A long time ago I read a short story or novelette of the same name by the same author. In that story a mother named Dawn witnessed the death of her son Tommy in a horrible accident in which her son was hit by a car driven by Kylie, a recently unemployed cashier who was paying more attention to her phone than to her driving. Dawn would undoubtedly grieve for a long time. But she didn’t. Only ten days after Tommy’s death, Dawn returned to the day of her son’s death and relived it. After seeing it again she lived for another ten days only to be returned again to the death scene. She was in a time never-ending time loop. She believed it to be never-ending and if she had to choose, she preferred to spend time with her son even though she knew the grim outcome.
In this novel, she has made the return trip in time hundreds of times. She is conscious of her actions and reasons that if she can change anything, no matter how minor, she can alter all subsequent effects. If this were a movie it would be The Butterfly Effect. Most of the novel deals with Dawn’s attempts to make any changes that will allow her son to live and for both of them to escape the time loop. It might interest a writer to read the novelette then this novel and make comparisons. The reader will see the phrase “fleshing out a story” as it is implemented.
In this longer story, we learn that Dawn was born with a “gift” that allows her to change events. She only has to say “If only I had …. (done this).” After saying this or, as she gets older, thinking it, Dawn “slips” in time back to a time preceding an unfortunate event. In her younger life, she had been able to see alternate possibilities appear as if in a set of folders. Dawn had been able to choose an alternate reality, return to it, and avert a disaster. She had been able to save her sister Anna, who had originally died in a fall on one of their adventures. Now it was Anna’s turn to help her get through Tommy’s death.
Dawn was not always successful in choosing and applying alternate realities that appeared to her. There was her time slip as a teenager when she had witnessed the brutal death of a dog in a public park. Despite going into a fugue state and disappearing from reality for seven days, the dog had died. Dawn could not account for her failure. Closer to the present time after her divorce and while raising Tommy, she had slipped in time to an event where she had witnessed and thought she caused, an accident where a woman’s daughter died. When she returned to real time, she could find no evidence the accident had occurred. She had altered events, but she didn’t know how.
But earlier actions were just a practice run for this one. What could she do to get her son back? The novel explores all the ways that Dawn tries to manipulate time to arrive at a fairer outcome. She won’t be able to do it by herself. She might need the help of Kylie, the Goth girl who had killed Tommy.
This is a fascinating and fast read. The novelette with this name was not intended as a teaser but it guaranteed that I would read further works by Susan May.