Ken Grimwood


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

July 20, 2005

eplay is a terrific tale, its premise is a lot like the famous movie Groundhog's Day, except that the main character - Jeff Winston - in this story relives his life over and over again, rather than just repeating one day. Jeff dies of a heart attack on page 1 of the novel, and wakes up in his body at college back in 1963, and he remembers everything that happened in his previous life. It takes a while to adjust to the fact that he is indeed living his life over again, and his memories allow him to make big bets on the Kentucky Derby and the World Series and that solves his money worries. But what will he do with his life now?

The best thing about this novel is that the reader can't help but think: what would I do in those circumstances? You probably won't agree with everything Jeff does, but it is great fun to read along and see what choices he makes and what the consequences are. For example, Jeff knows that Kennedy is going to be assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald - should he do something to stop it, and alter the fate of history? Grimwood succeeds in making Winston entirely sympathetic. Although he has foreknowledge of the future, this does not mean he won't make mistakes. For example, in one replay of his life, he attempts to impress the woman who was his wife in his previous life, and completely botches the encounter, and thus souring her opinion of him for good.

One thing I couldn't identify with his Winston's feelings about raising children. In one life he raises a wonderful daughter, even though he knows he will die at age 43 (no matter how Jeff changes his life, he always dies at the same time in every replay). When Jeff Winston wakes up to begin the next replay of his life, he is devastated because his daughter is no longer there. I didn't really follow this logic - just because he can't be with her, doesn't mean she isn't still alive in the alternate timeline where Jeff just perished. Shouldn't he be content knowing that she is leading a happy life that he provided for her? Every parent hopes that their children outlive them - I just didn't understand this part of the story.

Grimwood doesn't offer the slightest explanation as to why Jeff Winston is living his life over and over again. It is necessary to the plot, and the reader willingly accepts that. More interesting is the answer to the question: is there any one else besides Jeff who is also going through the replays of their life? This topic adds a lot of interest to the second half of the novel. The novel also picks up some suspense when Jeff realizes that each replay is shorter than the one before. He always dies on the exact same day at age 43, but he is reborn into his body in the next timeline at an older age. Each of his replays grows shorter and shorter, allowing him less and less time to accomplish what he wants. So even though Jeff is blessed with many more lifetimes than you or I, he still doesn't have enough time. In the end, it is a subtle message about making the most of the time you have here on earth. Carpe Diem.

The only reason I didn't give this book 5 stars is that I disagreed with some of the results about Jeff trying to alter history. It doesn't seem consistent - why can he change some outcomes and not others? Shouldn't any change alter all of history? This book is recommended. It was fun to read along and wonder "if I could go back, knowing what I know now, what would I do differently?".