Title: Oona Out of Order
Author: Margarita Montimore
Genre: Fiction (Speculative Fiction)
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication date: February 25 2020
Hardcover: 352 pages
A remarkably inventive novel that explores what it means to live a life fully in the moment, even if those moments are out of order.
It’s New Year’s Eve 1982, and Oona Lockhart has her whole life before her. At the stroke of midnight she will turn nineteen, and the year ahead promises to be one of consequence. Should she go to London to study economics, or remain at home in Brooklyn to pursue her passion for music and be with her boyfriend? As the countdown to the New Year begins, Oona faints and awakens thirty-two years in the future in her fifty-one-year-old body. Greeted by a friendly stranger in a beautiful house she’s told is her own, Oona learns that with each passing year she will leap to another age at random. And so begins Oona Out of Order…
Hopping through decades, pop culture fads, and much-needed stock tips, Oona is still a young woman on the inside but ever changing on the outside. Who will she be next year? Philanthropist? Club Kid? World traveler? Wife to a man she’s never met? Surprising, magical, and heart-wrenching, Margarita Montimore has crafted an unforgettable story about the burdens of time, the endurance of love, and the power of family.
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
How did I get this book: Review copy from publisher
Format (e- or p-): ebook
The first time it happens, it’s New Year’s Eve in 1982 and Oona is about to turn 19. She is at a party with her beloved boyfriend Dale and the other boys in the band where she plays the keyboard. Her whole life ahead of her with two options: an opportunity to go to London to study with her best friend or stay behind and relish in her love for music and her boyfriend. As midnight strikes though, Oona faints and when she awakens, she is thirty-two years in the future n the body of her fifty-one-year old body. A young man named Kenzie introduces himself as her assistant and best friend and explains to her:
She is at her house. She is rich. And that there is a letter from herself. When she finally opens the letter after freaking out for a while she learns that, every year, on her birthday, she will travel through time to her own body at a different point in her life, always for exactly one year. Her mother and Kenzie are the only ones who know about it and will be there for her always (or sadly, nearly always).
There is a folder with information she needs to memorise (including financial information) and with nearly every new jump there is a letter from herself with information that year. Sometimes these letters help, sometimes she will just try to change things but can she change the past/future?.
Oona just knows that she needs to learn how to learn her life out of order, back and forth.
The high concept premise is so much fun and there are such tantalizing moments – when she jumps for the second time, after getting used to her life as a 51-year-old, she jumps into an earlier self and has a year of sex, drugs and rock and roll because why not. The learning curve of having exactly one year to live out a life with ONE group of friends/family is really interesting too when it comes to examining life choices. One very good thing was Oona’s love for music and playing the guitar (she only played keyboard earlier because she didn’t want to outshine Dale) which is the one constant together with her mom.
There is one jump where she is in early twenties in her brain but she is in her fourth-year old self body and married to a man she obviously doesn’t know. What was past-future Oona thinking that she decides to marry someone knowing how hard it will be for past-Oona to make it a go of it when future-Oona always knows the outcome too? It’s mind-bending and interesting and thought-provoking but for me, this book was just that: much more about the thought experiment behind the fantastic premise than the actual lived, experienced, emotional execution of it. It’s hard to explain but the earlier chapters describing her first jumps are so long and weirdly, they are both too detailed and not detailed enough. There are too many mundane details but nowhere near enough emotional payoff on what it means to live life moment by moment.
It’s frustrating too, because Oona spends so much time wondering about her boyfriend Dale (“the love of her life”) when her future self learns how manipulative he was, how she did things for him rather than for herself. Then she eventually learns they had a baby (in her past which is also her future) and things become very fixed on that one element of the novel.
Oona Out of Order has such a fantastic high concept premise – it is a shame that the execution was so… disappointing. There was some oomph missing, for me.
Rating: 5 – Meh