Title: If Only
Author: Melanie Murphy
Publisher: Hatchette Books Ireland
Publication date: June 6, 2019
Genre: Fiction, Women’s fiction
Summary: Erin has just broken up with her fiance, has a job she hates, and is jealous of her new flatmate who is basically everything she isn’t. On the bright side, she has a fantastic friend in Reid, has just discovered her childhood friend Finn has moved to the same building, and is about to celebrate her thirtieth birthday with her beloved grandmother in Ireland. But her granny has a surprise for her: a special pendant that can give her the opportunity to briefly live a life she could have had that will change how she sees her reality.
I love the premise of this book. Who hasn’t wondered what their life would have been like if they’d made a different decision? I wouldn’t mind my own pendant, though I think it would drive me as nuts as it did Erin when she first received it. It is eye opening, though, what a glimpse into another life can give you. At the same time, it can also help one see how right reality can be for one. I loved that Erin explored a few possibilities, but kept coming back to how different her life in them was from what she loved about her reality. As a reader, I will always wonder about the if onlys, but reading this also makes me appreciate where my choices have led me and makes me think this is where I’m supposed to be.
The majority of this book takes place in London, and the characters feel like regular people out walking on the streets. Their speech was sometimes a little hard to follow and figure out since it just felt so very British, but I was charmed by the authenticity and how the author didn’t try to clean up their speech to make it more clear. It felt like I was listening in on someone’s life, and I loved it. One thing that bothered me a little, though, was when other characters would point out how Irish Erin was at times. As an American who doesn’t know the fine differences between being Irish and British, I had no clue what the character was talking about. There was no way I could tell what was British and what was Irish.
One interesting thought that kept striking me while I read, though, was how much it kept making me think of the movie Love, Actually. I don’t know if it was the setting or how the characters spoke or how, in it’s own way, the story revolved around love and friendship, but it made me smile and want to keep reading.
I really loved how the structure was very different from what I had expected. When Erin was presented with the pendant and told she would only have seven views, I expected the chapters to, more or less, alternate between views and reality. Instead, I got an Erin who was torn between being terrified of using the pendant and wanting desperately to glimpse what different decisions would have brought. Most of the book was spent with her debating whether to use it and her living her life and moving forward, creating her own unique family and place in the world. What I didn’t like were the time jumps immediately after the chapters detailing her pendant use. I would have liked a bit about her digesting and unpacking what she saw and how it might impact her reality.
Overall, this was a delightful novel, one I would probably read over and over. The characters felt familiar in that they could be anyone with the same problems and questions and regrets. I loved the way Erin used the pendant and how it impacted the way she saw her reality, and I commend her lack of impulse to use all seven tries. I loved how this book highlighted the fact that we all have wondered “what if” or “if only” and suggested that perhaps the life we are currently living is the one meant for us anyways and that we must continually move forward.
How many cups of tea will you need?
4 cups will be perfect.
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Thank you so much to Netgalley and Hatchette Books Ireland for a free copy. All opinions expressed here are my own.
Check out more of my book reviews over at the Bookshelf.