What would you do if you lived life non chronologically?
That’s the question the protagonist of Margarita Montimore’s latest novel faces.
I’d read so many positive reviews of The Rearranged Life of Oona Lockhart from the UK book bloggers I follow on Twitter that I knew I had to pick up a copy! So I headed to my local bookstore and searched the shelves for that peachy pink cover I’d seen in the photos.
And then, on the “New Hardcover Fiction” table, I found it. A bright turquoise book called Oona Out of Order.
Who knew that UK and US books had different covers and different titles? I guess I’ve got a lot to do to catch up on the industry.
I love both of them! The US cover really reminds me of a movie poster. Convenient, since the movie reads like a screenplay. But UK cover gives off more minimalistic Crazy Rich Asians vibes. I’m torn.
I do think I prefer the US title though… Alliteration is my favorite literary technique. Does having a favorite literary technique make you a nerd? (Don’t answer that.)
Let’s start with a little synopsis of the novel.
Oona Lockhart is celebrating her 19th birthday on New Year’s Eve in 1982, waiting for the stroke of midnight.
As the countdown begins, Oona kisses her boyfriend, the love of her life, Dale. But as the countdown ends and a new year begins, it’s 2015, not 1983. Oona is 51 on the outside… but 19 on the inside.
Oona wakes up to her current best friend, Kenzie, and her mother, Madeleine, in a big New York mansion — hers! — who explain that Oona lives her life, well, out of order!
Every New Year’s Eve, she jumps to a different age, meaning her inner age and her outer age never line up.
How will Oona learn to navigate starting each year with a blank slate, living life in fast forward and reverse, meeting best friends (sometimes lovers) she doesn’t remember, and more? It seems like she may never get it right.
What a unique concept! I don’t feel like I’ve ever read something along these lines before, and I love that the reader doesn’t know how it’ll end.
So often with the books I read, I know how it’ll end — who winds up with who, even though they hate each other at the beginning, or they were only platonic friends, etc. I don’t mind that, because it means I get to enjoy the ride the whole time, rather than constantly seeing if I can predict the right ending.
With Oona, I experienced the best of both worlds. The ride was so fun that I didn’t care how it ended, but I was still blown away by the finish!
As I mentioned before, this book reads like a screenplay. Taking a look at the US cover on the left, can’t you just picture the actor who plays Oona at different phases in her life scrambled up like this? 50 year old Oona’s forehead, with some wrinkles. 27 year old Oona’s lips, bright lipstick. I don’t see how this one doesn’t hit theaters in a few years! Done right, it’ll be a hit.
The relationships in this book were the most enjoyable to watch. Sometimes, we knew someone would come back but didn’t know which year, or why. Sometimes, we got to see a relationship play out backwards — no spoilers, but this one was so intricate and cleverly laid out.
Most of the time, we get to see Oona’s relationship with herself. How does she act 39 when she feels 22? 53 when she feels 25? And how does she feel about herself from the previous year, someone she has to uncover as the current year plays out? To me, that’s the most interesting question to consider.
Again, no spoilers, but the twist in this book is jaw dropping. I did not see it coming, and I had to put the book down, close my eyes and replay everything to comprehend it. It works, and it’s absolutely brilliant.
My only problem with the book is that I was unable to suspend reality to believe it. I wanted to let my mind go and say “Forget it Scarlet, this is how it works!” But I just couldn’t. For example, she took her first jump from 19 to 51, but somehow her 50 year old self had already lived 2014. How? Everyone else had lived chronologically!
So did every jump just happen simultaneously and were fully preplanned? How did her 50 year old self know that 51 would be the first jump? Everything had already happened, but for Oona, it hadn’t. But everyone else had lived those years with her. Mind boggling.
I loved the concept, but had a little too much disbelief and too many questions in the back of my mind the whole time I was reading. I suppose that’s why everyone always points out issues with time travel (hello, Avengers: Endgame!)
Overall, I see Oona Out of Order // The Rearranged Life of Oona Lockhart // whatever you want to call it being a massive 2020 hit and beyond. If you spot this book in your bookstore or library, give it a read.
4 out of 5 stars.