It didn’t take a lot for me to grab One Day in December off the bookshelves of my college campus’s Barnes and Noble last winter.
A Reese Witherspoon booklist sticker and a light purple cover with a London bus were all it took.
“Never judge a book by a cover” yadda yadda yadda… I’ve never been so grateful to have done exactly that.
Came for the Reese’s Pick, stayed for Josie Silver’s incredible story.
I read all of One Day in December in one day in December, oddly enough.
Books that read like movies are the ones that truly transport me. I spent half of my reading time imaging which actors would play each character. I give it another year or two before we see a movie adaptation of this book.
All this to say, my anticipation level was high when I heard that Silver’s latest book The Two Lives of Lydia Bird was coming out this month.
I Marched (not sorry) straight to my local bookstore and was shocked to find it there already! I was ready to get lost in the latest.
First, a brief, spoiler-free synopsis:
Engaged and together for more than a decade, Lydia and Freddie seem to be the couple who will go the distance. But on Lydia’s twenty-eighth birthday, Freddie dies.
Somehow, Lydia is going to have to figure out how to go on without him. Or is she?
Following a too-long string of no sleep and an inability to climb into the bed she and Freddie once shared, Lydia is prescribed new, trial sleeping pills. These pills wind up doing more than helping her sleep — they transport her to a place where Freddie is still alive.
It doesn’t take Lydia long to realize that this dream-like other world isn’t all it’s cracked up to be — the supporting cast of characters are there too, and not everything goes according to plan in Lydia’s “alternate universe.”
With her mom, her sister Ellie, Freddie’s best friend Jonah, her coworkers and more hoping Lydia stays in reality, will she ever be ready to let the love of her life go? Can anyone have more than one happy ending?
After the immediate connection I had felt with Laurie from One Day in December, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to connect so quickly with the characters in The Two Lives of Lydia Bird.
For the first 75 pages or so, I found myself doing multiple check-ins: Is this resonating? Do I believe it? Can I empathize with this amount of insurmountable grief?
Then I got to a point in one of the “alternate reality” chapters, and noticed tears rolling down my cheek. It resonated — it really did.
I cried about two or three more times throughout this novel.
In real life, we experience love and loss all the time. It’s often not to the level of Lydia’s, but it’s omnipresent in our lives. Maybe that’s why it is the rest of the story that stuck with me more strongly than these parts.
Lydia isn’t just a heartsick millennial hoping to never let go.
She’s also single for the first time in more than a decade, evaluating what her life should look like. Is she brave enough to cut her hair, the long mane Freddie so dearly loved? Can she redecorate their apartment the way she wanted? Is she capable of traveling solo?
In many ways, she realizes she is forever changed by what happened. In others, she actively makes changes and takes authority that she should have a long time ago. She’s a new person, someone she hopes she would have discovered even if Freddie was still there. Would he love the new her anyway? And does that matter?
In this stellar book, these questions relate to a romantic relationship, but in real life, they don’t have to. I loved the importance of each side character in helping Lydia find her way, especially the undying support of the women in her life. They weren’t nonchalant cheerleaders of every decision Lydia made; rather, they made her question her instincts and often pushed back. It made her better.
It also mattered to me that everyone else wasn’t sunshine and rainbows — each character experienced their own pain and grief in a variety of ways, related to Freddie and not. There were multiple storylines with fully formed characters, something we don’t often get in “chicklit.”
Just like One Day in December, I can see this turning into a feature-length film. If so, I hope the depths of those characters remain.
My one qualm with this book is the suspension of reality necessary to believe in the “alternate universe” storyline. My least favorites chapters were consistently the times Lydia was “asleep,” visiting Freddie and her cast of characters on the other side.
I’m not sure what else the author could have chosen to do here — traveling between two worlds was going to require some level of reality suspension. Still, I am grateful Silver took the time to carefully craft that world, ensuring that readers couldn’t argue Lydia was “delusional” or “hallucinating.” I never once thought that, and it might have been easy to think if done wrong.
Here is one of my favorite quotes from the novel:
“I found the old me, still in here, and the new me sitting right alongside her. We made friends.”
Overall, I was enamored by Silver’s second book and I’m already looking forward to her next.
One Day in December, The Two Lives of Lydia Bird… What are the odds it has “Three” in the title?
4 out of 5 stars