Imagine you can go back in time and live an alternate life. You make different choices and have different experiences with potentially different people. Perhaps it means no kids, a different career choice, a different spouse or perhaps no spouse at all. Are you willing to make that choice? You only have a few seconds to decide, so what do you do? This is the dilemma that faces five friends on the eve of 12/21/2012 in 2012: Midnight at Spanish Gardens by Alma Alexander.
Olivia, John, Quincey, Ellen and Simon have no idea what's in store for them on this wintry December evening. They haven't really been in contact with one another since college and that's been over twenty years ago. It seems quite fortuitous that they agree to meet at an old college hangout, Spanish Gardens, on the evening that the world is supposed to come to an end. They are all greeted by an enigmatic gentleman, ostensibly the bartender, Ariel. Ariel doesn't really intrude in their evening but he does seem to provide them all with interesting yet profoundly insightful statements. And it the mysterious Ariel that provides all five with the ultimate decisions of go back in time, live an alternate life and stay in that alternate history or return and continue with the present history.
Simon is the last to enter the restaurant and the first to experience an alternate past. In this life he suffers through the premature death of both parents due to a car accident and is raised by his maternal grandmother. He becomes a respected university professor and restarts a world-renowned, university-founded literary magazine. He also becomes instrumental in the success of several students turned authors. His choice is to stay in this life without children or spouse or return to his life with a wife, children and fame as an author. Is his fame more important than his students? What choice will he make?
John was the proverbial wild child. Once he learned about his inauspicious origins and his father's behavior he no longer wants to be the good child that follows in his father's footsteps or so he thinks. In his alternate life he does become a doctor and eventually gives his life over to philanthropy by working with Doctors Without Borders. It is rather ironic because with the exception of working as a physician in one life, John's lives mirror one another. In one he is alone and travels the world as an organizer for aid and relief with UNESCO and in the other he is also alone and travels the world to give aid and relief as a doctor. Which life is preferred since they are so closely aligned?
Quincey and Ellen are both faced with truly life altering alternate pasts. Quincey must decide if marriage (even the one that didn't work out), children and being a single mom are more important that an unexpected but deeply rewarding love. Ellen is also faced with the choice of children vs. no children, but her choice is even more difficult as her alternate past is as a completely different person altogether. Olivia is the first person that we meet in this tale and her alternate life is the last presented. Her choices are just as difficult, but she seems to have a better grasp on what mistakes not to make in this lifeline. I won't mention the details of her alternate life or the choices that she has to make, but it is Olivia's story that ultimately ties the others together and provides clarity. All five friends are faced with impossible choices. Fortunately once they make a final choice their alternate life becomes nothing more than a blur of possibilities.
Everyone likes the idea of going back and changing things, possibly righting the wrong decisions or simply making a different decision. Ms. Alexander shows that this is not always as easy as we think. I have to say that I rather enjoyed this story. There were moments when I wasn't sure about the story simply because of long and rambling sentences, use of terms such as susurrus and serried (yes I had to look them up, see below), or seemingly disjointed conversations. But even with these issues I continued on and was pleasantly surprised by the intriguing stories. I became invested in learning more about the characters and wanted to see what choices they would make. In the end I was thoroughly and pleasantly surprised by just how much I liked 2012: Midnight In Spanish Gardens.
Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
Susurrus: a soft murmuring or rustling sound; whisper.
Serried: pressed together or compacted, as soldiers in rows: serried troops.