“That’s what marriage is, isn’t it? Taking the rough with the smooth. At least, that’s what it should be.”

What is this book about?

The Versions of Us is one of those ‘What If’ books. What if I chose him over that other guy, what if I pursued art instead of a regular career, what if I took care of my mother instead of starting a family? Laura Barnett writes out three different versions of the lives Eva and Jim, and the people around them, could have had.

Why is it boring?

The book can be a little slow sometimes and I found it a little confusing, especially at the beginning. The three timelines are definitely all different, but the lives overlap a lot as well, which makes it hard to keep track of where you are at. This really was my biggest gripe with the novel, but it’s nothing a nice graphic timeline couldn’t fix. Maybe one of you could get on that.

Who would you recommend it to?

If you find yourself often wondering what if I had done this, how would my life have turned out, then you will love and hate The Versions of Us. You will love it because you get to live our a fantasy and you will hate it because your different decisions don’t matter all that much. But anyone looking for a smart and thoughtful book will have a great time with this one though. I also believe this would make a great book club book. There are so many things to discuss here!

Why should I read it if it’s boring?!

Besides the ‘gimmick’ of having three versions, The Versions of Us is a great study into the lives of men, women and marriage starting at the 1950’s until modern times. For me the novel centered much more on human relationships and how we try to make things work, than on the idea that we could have made other decisions so that our lives would have been different. Mostly because Barnett shows that life wouldn’t actually be all that different even if we make those different decisions. Our parents still die, we still have children and we still have our pleasures and our pains. While reading the three different versions, I constantly kept thinking which one was the better one, but I found that they all had their ups and downs in their own horrible ways. The Versions of Us wasn’t a very uplifting read for me. There’s a lot of pain in all three lives in the form of disease, adultery and difficult children. The writing is a little melancholic, the characters already looking back and – especially Jim – thinking that they could have done things better if only they had… What I took away away from this novel was that no matter your choices, your life will never be perfect. You have to make the best of the outcomes of your decisions and even though it can be hard, you’ll need to work at making your life worth living.

Rating: 4/5

Review Copy attained through Netgalley with special thanks to the publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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Esmée de Heer is head honcho over at the Bored to Death book club website, writing the daily content and making sure the site stays up and running. She's one of the founding sisters of the book club and enjoys reading and giving unsolicited love advice.

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