So THAT’s how it works.
Adrienne Celt’s “End of the World House,” out this week, is one of those reads that offers you up a theoretical explanation you can latch onto so tightly you’re almost afraid to let go.
And it may leave you asking, “Am I a Bertie? Or a Kate? And is any of this even real?”
I don’t typically pick up dystopian novels, which is odd in that anytime I read one, I usually really enjoy it. Maybe it’s the shades of Piers Anthony on my brain, books shared between my brother and myself growing up. I wasn’t surprised when I went looking at other previews at the mentions of “Groundhog Day” alongside “Russian Doll” (Ahhhh! Season Two is coming!) and Rumaan Alam’s “Leave the World Behind.” Celt’s time-twisting adventure of Bertie and Kate, two childhood friends, also had me thinking about Kate Atkinson’s “Life After Life.”
When taking on this kind of plot device — that of a person caught in a time loop — an author runs that risk of being compared to previous examples, especially when those examples are excellent. But it would be unfair to compare Celt’s story to those in a parallel, mostly because in the world Celt creates here, nothing is a straight line. Instead, it’s as life is on a series of loops linked together like a magician’s rings — connected, then apart. Connected, then apart.
Theoretically, imagine a different version of yourself riding a loop on each one of those rings. Multiple yous, connected, then apart.
Those connection points between rings? That’s how I will always imagine how deja vu works. You’ve lived it, just not on your loop.
On one ring Bertie is aware of losing Kate. On another, Kate’s there, but not really. Then there’s the loop or loops with Dylan, her paramour. There’s Bertie that’s content with her job. There’s the Bertie that is writing her graphic novel. There’s … a lot to Bertie.
And this is all layered on an Alam-esque background of kinda sorta impending global doom. Given our current state, it’s more than a little disquieting, but OK. (The fact my grocery store was completely out of blueberries (the horror!) this weekend hits too close to home here, but I know I am overthinking it and no of course nothing is blowing up here. Welcome, anxiety, my old friend.)
I loved this story, the possibilities it creates in the brain, the threads you can pull imagining alternate futures and the promise it offers at the end, on a plane with a stranger that’s not a stranger. I’d think there’s a lot to dissect as a book club choice, especially when it comes to the concepts of free will and manipulation.
Yeah, I’ll be thinking about “End of the World House” for a while. Don’t pass on it.