This is a novel that deals with identity, how it is mostly projected – we see people as we’d like to see them more often than who they really are – and, most importantly, time.
I will ensure this is as spoiler-free as it can be because this tender, heartbreaking novel is set to hit the shelves in a little over a week. I read it as an advanced reader’s copy from NetGalley (my very first) and it kept my mind racing with questions all throughout the time I spent reading it.
This is a story about two lovers, one of whom is Polly, the protagonist, and about how much stress their relationship can endure. The underlying conflict in this novel isn’t one that occurs just before the ending and is resolved neatly, as most romances would opt for, but one that is stretched out over the course of the story. It’s a will-they-won’t-they but instead of the end result being a dramatic union, Polly and her lover, Frank, teeter on the edge of separation and it’s a suspenseful plot from beginning to end.
It’s full of moments and scenes where you stop and think to yourself about the author’s cleverness and how that is both brilliant and tragic (given the nature of her political commentary and how poorly it reflects on the world we live in). And even though I know the whole “our world is truly dystopian” trope is probably a tired one at this point, this novel presents it in a new way, one that has you considering social constructs that are woven so deep into the fabric of our society that it takes pages of development for that shocking ‘aha’ moment to settle in.
The main character, Polly, faces adversity after adversity and comes to the realization, at some point, that she is in a position of disadvantage because of the way she looks.
“When I had status, I looked white, but now I look Hispanic.”
And Lim switches between startlingly forward comments such as that one and those on the more subtle end of the spectrum. Things like the way people with status, freedom, and money treat those who don’t have those things. The privileged live in a way that is so willfully ignorant of those who suffer while they indulge in mindless luxuries that they end up believing the lies they construct for themselves.
But while Lim is capable of stirring deep feelings of resentment in her readers due to the injustice in her fictional world that reflects disappointingly well into our own reality, she also illustrates intimacy in the most beautiful way. I remember reading the following passage and having to get it together afterwards because it was just so playful and lovely.
“Frank frogmarches Polly into the bathroom. He lifts her onto the vanity, her bum falls in the sink. He kisses her to muzzle her yelps of laughter. ‘I love you, I love you, I love you,’ he says.”
And while I did enjoy my reading experience, for the most parts, I felt a general sense of anticipation all throughout the story. Polly and Frank were both well developed characters but I felt a sense of distance from Polly, whose narrative was the more prominent one, and I wasn’t able to shake it. I did sympathize with her more towards the end, for sure, and I definitely wasn’t immune to how clever and resourceful she was, but I never managed to feel like I could immerse myself in the story as it unfolded before me.
But let me tell you, this is one of THE most creative ways I’ve ever seen time travel constructed and if the idea of science fiction crossing paths with social and cultural critique all tied together by romance appeals to you in any way, check this book out when it comes out next week!