Published by William Morrow on January 1986
Genres: Time Travel
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Jeff Winston was 43 and trapped in a tepid marriage and a dead-end job, waiting for that time when he could be truly happy, when he died.
And when he woke and he was 18 again, with all his memories of the next 25 years intact. He could live his life again, avoiding the mistakes, making money from his knowledge of the future, seeking happiness.
Until he dies at 43 and wakes up back in college again...
Jeff Winston is given a unique opportunity when amidst a mid-life crisis of sorts at the age of forty-three, talking to his wife on the phone, he has a heart attack and dies. Yes, this is only the beginning of his story. When he wakes up, he’s confused by his surroundings and thinks he must be dreaming because he hasn’t seen the inside of his dorm room since he was eighteen years old. Except he really is eighteen, all over again. He has the opportunity to do everything differently and he starts by using his knowledge of the future by betting on the Kentucky Derby and creating the start of his fortune. He becomes more successful than he ever could have imagined in his first life, he’s happy and healthy and while this life isn’t without its flaws he feels it to be far superior than the first go around. And then he turns forty-three, has yet another heart attack at the same exact moment, blacks out, and reawakens once again at eighteen.
Something really resonated with me with this book and I absolutely adored the time I spent reading it. Replay is so spectacularly simplistic yet bursting with brilliance. While it’s tagged as a time travel novel, it’s a very different sort. With each replay, Jeff retains all knowledge of the past while constantly returning to his younger self. There’s a distinct lack of anything supernatural or science fiction or even an answer as to why this was happening to him period. While you won’t be able to stop yourself from wondering about the why of it all, Replay’s real focus is more on the profound and of the components of what makes life worth living.
At one point or another, we’ve all wondered “If I could go back in the past, would I do things differently?” If given the opportunity, knowing the things we know based on the lives we’ve led, would we attempt to try to change things in hopes of creating a better future for ourselves? While I fully agree that our experiences in life are what truly makes us who we are, and I’m pretty satisfied with the way I turned out, I still can’t help but think of the myriad of possibilities of what could be changed or at least slightly altered. In Replay, even though it is told from the point of view of a fictional character, you can’t help but feel as if you’re being given the opportunity to replay based on the way he chooses to live his various lives. His immediate reaction to second chances is money and he spends his life making millions only to discover by the next replay that it never quite made him as happy as he had expected it to. So in the next life he focuses on something different. One thing he does begin to realize is that no matter what life you choose to lead, something is bound to go wrong, even with a knowledge of the future and of memories of past actions. Even with the opportunity to replay, there’s never a guarantee that you’ll end up with anything close to perfect, you just learn to work with what you’re given and make it the very best possible.
All life includes loss. It’s taken me many, many years to learn to deal with that, and I don’t expect I’ll ever be fully resigned to it. But that doesn’t mean we have to turn away from the world, or stop striving for the best that we can do and be. We owe that much to ourselves, at least, and we deserve whatever measure of good may come of it.