When Nigel Walden is fourteen, the UNHAPPENINGS begin. His first girlfriend disappears the day after their first kiss with no indication she ever existed. This retroactive change is the first of many only he seems to notice.
Several years later, when Nigel is visited by two people from his future, he hopes they can explain why the past keeps rewriting itself around him. But the enigmatic young guide shares very little, and the haggard, incoherent, elderly version of himself is even less reliable. His search for answers takes him fifty-two years forward in time, where he finds himself stranded and alone.
And then he meets Helen.
Brilliant, hilarious and beautiful, she captivates him. But Nigel’s relationships always unhappen, and if they get close it could be fatal for her. Worse, according to the young guide, just by entering Helen’s life, Nigel has already set into motion events that will have catastrophic consequences. In his efforts to reverse this, and to find a way to remain with Helen, he discovers the disturbing truth about the unhappenings, and the role he and his future self have played all along.
Equal parts time-travel adventure and tragic love story, Unhappenings is a tale of gravely bad choices, and Nigel’s struggle not to become what he sees in the preview of his worst self.
Oh Nigel, your life was nothing but unique. Each day was a complete mystery while the Unhappenings were happening. Wait my red bike is now green, where did this cat come from, you mean I work here now? Yesterday you were my girlfriend, today you are dating my bestie? Wait, where did my house go? Who’s that weird old guy who looks like me wanting me to head off to the future to work for him? Say What?!? That’s such a simplified scenario of events. It was so much more than that. It was taking a past and a future and a present and merging them together to attempt to tweak the desired outcomes. Both in the past and in the future (which became the present). Confused yet? I promise as you read the book it all makes sense, sorta.
The book is written in small chapter references, all related to unhappenings that were trying to be tweaked. All were short which caused the sheer volume of chapters to become overwhelmed. The other overwhelming issue, for me, was the constant jumps in time and the attempts to explain the paradoxes of time travel. I think it may be just me that didn’t quite wrap my head around the way they really work. But forget about time travel and the secondary set of issues it involves and delve into human nature for a moment. Ultimately this book is about the story of one man, at different stages in his life, attempting to be controlled by this man at a different age in a different time, in order to get what he wants. When he was too late to get it himself. He’s selfish. And in his selfishness he has the means to attempt to tweak history in order to get what he wants. But guess what? Because of his selfishness and attempts to change his history (with versions of himself of course) he changes things that creates the selfishness of other people to appear. Other people that also have the means to attempt to regain what they want…and lost because of the other man’s selfishness. See what I mean about confusion!
All that said I did like this book. It took something futuristic (time travel) and applied it to human nature (selfishness and the want what I want when I want it like right now mindset). However I think to truly appreciate this book and overcome the confusion that I experienced it would recommend a second read. Seriously. Think of it this way. There are things in chapter X that completely explain something that happened many chapters earlier. With a full scope of reading the little nuances that were probably missed and tracking on the confusion list would be better understood. It’s worth the pick up to read and it’s best when you read it again. Just my two pennies.
About Edward Aubry
Edward Aubry is a graduate of Wesleyan University, with a degree in music composition. Improbably, this preceded a career as a teacher of high school mathematics and creative writing. He now lives in rural Pennsylvania with his wife and three spectacular daughters, where he fills his non-teaching hours spinning tales of time-travel, wise-cracking pixies, and an assortment of other impossible things.
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