Rated Reads

The Versions of Us

by Laura Barnett

Rated: Mild

They met when a nail put a hole in her bicycle tire. Or didn’t. And they fell in love and married. Or didn’t marry. They had children together. Or with other people. They found their way back to each other. They were happy. Or not.

The Versions of Us tells three ways the story of Eva and Jim plays out over the course of their lives, from their meeting during college (or meeting later on) all the way through to their 70s. In one way or another, they are drawn to each other, somehow “fated” to be together, at least eventually. Rather than reading one full “version” at a time, the reader gets a chapter at a time of each of the three versions, so the stories run parallel but the narrative is kind of broken up. It mostly works but isn’t ideal; the “endings” aren’t spoiled this way and the reader can easily see the small and large differences that result in the plot lines by characters’ decisions or twists of fate, but it can sometimes be a bit confusing to keep track of what’s happening in which version.

In one version, Eva and Jim marry. In another, Eva doesn’t meet Jim at college and marries her destined-to-be-famous actor boyfriend. In the third, Eva breaks up with the actor to date Jim for a short time but goes back to the actor when she finds out she is pregnant with his baby.

Though Eva and Jim do seem meant to be together, they still have challenges living together, even (especially?) when they start out married, as in version one. Marriage isn’t always easy for even the happiest or best matched of couples, and in Eva and Jim’s stories, there are strains from career success and career disappointments for both of them. They face the challenges that come from the sickness of parents and spouses. Their children, together and with other people, bring happiness and heartache. In short, they live mostly normal lives, and they sometimes do better than others at loving each other.

Though I did have a few issues with the book (I did occasionally get confused and had to concentrate on who was who and who was experiencing what in which version), and I got frustrated sometimes with the characters for doing stupid things (which perhaps could just be seen as showing the story is true to life), I was drawn in and was quite moved at the end. Probably because I’m solidly in middle age myself, I could appreciate the passage of time and the realities of growing older, having children grow up, watching parents die and so on. All in all, it was a great reminder to appreciate the love I have and nurture it.

Rated: Mild. There are occasional uses of mild language and what would be stronger language in British-speak, but not American. There is sex but no details, infidelity, and brief references of drug use by one minor character. There are frequent references to smoking and some occasional heavy drinking.

I received an advance e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for more than 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • The Versions of Us
  • by Laura Barnett
  • Rated: Mild
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reviewer: