I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Farrar Straus and Giroux on January 19, 2016
Source: the publisher
A pacy pageturner that asks: Can you be held responsible now for something you did in a previous life?
Fifteen-year-old Ana has a good life--she has friends and a boy she likes and a kind mother--but still, she's haunted by her past; she knows that she lived once before as a girl named Emma, and she still misses her old family. When, by chance in her life now, Ana meets a woman she knew in her previous life, a terrifying memory flashes through her mind of a young girl drowning. Was Emma responsible? And should Ana pay the price? Consumed by guilt, Ana sets out to find out as much as possible about the person she was before and what she had done, only to discover that the family she misses so deeply had dark secrets of its own. To come to terms with her life now, Ana must figure out how to let go of the past.
A message from Meredith: Hey everyone! Today, I have Heather here with a guest review for My Second Life by Faye Bird.
Without further adieu, here’s Heather’s review! Enjoy!
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I was offered the chance to review My Second Life. I believe in reincarnation and the thought that you can be held responsible for something you did in a past life is definitely intriguing. It brings up so many questions: can someone who did good be allowed a pass if they commit a crime? Can someone who did something terrible ever be redeemed? Faye Bird tackles one of these questions with Ana, her main character.
Ana is a fifteen year old girl who has always known that she’s lived a life before. From the moment she is born into her life as Ana, she has memories of her life as Emma, the girl she was previously. For the most part these memories manifest as a longing for her first mother, which causes a lot of conflict with her current mother. This was illustrated in the book by the fact that as a reader I never really got the sense that we knew Ana’s mother. She was in the book for brief periods of time, but her character was never really developed in my eyes. I think this was a good method because it gave me a similar sense of distance from her like what Ana must have felt.
Things get tricky for Ana when she, by chance, runs into someone from her old life and starts to have memories that are much darker than anything she’s ever experienced before. It brings up the question in her mind; what did I do when I was Emma? This question drives Ana to dive into an investigation of her past life and the path that it leads her down is frightening, nerve wracking, and will ultimately lead to a place that will lead both Ana and the reader unsettled.
I won’t go into much more plot wise because I don’t want to spoil the story, but I will say that you’ll think you know what’s happening but the truth will surprise you. Faye Bird does a good job of keeping the ending close to her chest. The pacing of her writing is very quick, which I appreciated. This read could be done in a day or two if you’re busy, maybe a couple of hours if you’ve got a spare afternoon.
One of the things that I wish had been more developed in the book was Ana’s previous life and how it worked and why she was the only one that seemed to be “gifted” with this second chance. She was incredibly lucky to be reborn at all, but also, how did it happen that she was reborn so close to her original family? Out of the whole world, England again? I’d be curious to see if Faye Bird has another book planned that might examine someone else’s experience with rebirth that might explain some of these loose threads.
The romantic aspect of the story between Ana and Jamie was a bit lackluster for me and didn’t add anything, though I think it was meant to give Ana a sense of normalcy. Considering her extraordinary circumstances, that sort of plot device was probably a good idea, but similar to Ana’s mother, I never really connected with Jamie. I was much more interested in how Ana was feeling, what was going on in her head, how she was dealing with “living” two lives at once.
There were a few slow points in the beginning, but I think that, even given the negatives I’ve pointed out here, that My Second Life is well worth the read. It’s a good concept and makes you think about the question that Ana faces: can you be held responsible for something “you” did in a past life?