The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
It reads on my mind like a screen play, although I don't know that I've ever read a proper screen play. It is consequently played in bits and pieces like a movie while I read it.
Screen black. Then words scrawled in cursive, written in as a raspy, old man says them, quietly,
"I am writing this for you,
You know, already, you must know
You have lost."
Fade to black.
Open scene in foreign hospital. A man of indeterminate age lays on a bed, dying. A television plays in the background, giving clues for the year. A little girl, looking innocent and out of place, approaches the bed. Takes the man's pulse, checks the chart then whispers, "I almost missed you, Dr. August. I need to send a message back through time. As you are conveniently dying. . . The world is ending." She gives the old man a knowing smile. The old man looks back at the girl with recognition. Fade.
Open scene at Hulme House with Rory having a dalliance with the maid (without details), an intelligible argument through an open window with Mrs. Rory Hulme. Maid dismissed. Opening credits played here. Maid growing in girth, finding circumstances more and more dire, standing at train station, very pregnant and realizing she is in labor, in the bathroom with another woman, coaxing the young woman, a baby cries, the woman exclaims, "It's a boy!" To the lifeless woman on the floor.
Harry's lives always begin the same; born in a woman's bathroom, never sharing any of his life with his mother. He has an ordinary first life. He is adopted by Patrick and Harriet August, never knowing he was adopted. He serves in WWII, lives through it, grows old, discovers he has cancer, and dies. He is shocked, therefore, when death is not the end nor is he greeted with wings of angels. Instead, Harry begins again in the woman's bathroom in the same train station, his mother dead.
The next 14 lives are spent establishing and strong storyline and culminating into the beginning. A letter, written to someone and beginning, "I am writing this for you, my enemy, my friend..."
There are too many strands to fully explore this book, as it is covertly exploring string theory in some form. Many characters show up in Harry's life over and over again, playing more or less of importance in his life, depending on what he chooses to do. We meet others who are like him. We experience the time period between 1919 and the end of his life (sometimes sooner than later) in different geographical points in the world. I grew very fond of Akinlye, particularly after her big decision. I grew very fond of Charity, who enters Harry's life "sideways" in one life, another screenplay moment. It was a quiet yet powerful entrance.
I want to write more but less is best. It is he of my favorite books I have read this year. Very well written and perfectly timed. Dramatic at times, comical at others. The main story of Harry's first 15 lives is nothing I have revealed. I give it an A plus for originality and timing. An A for the ending of the book.