REVIEW: The Rearranged Life of Oona Lockhart by Margarita Montimore

In brief: Every year, Oona wakes up in a different period of her life. Sometimes she’s 19 in a much older body, and some years are painful to bear.

The good: Quirky idea handled very well.

The not-so-good: I want to hear more about Oona’s years!

Why I chose it: Felt like something a bit different. Thank you to Hachette for the copy.

Year: 2020

Pages: 339

Publisher: Gollancz (Hachette)

Setting: Mainly New York City

Rating: 9 out of 10

With the world in uncharted waters, finding a book that can take your mind off current events isn’t easy. The Rearranged Life of Oona Lockhart (also known as Oona Out of Order) is a timely read that is easy to relate to, as the main character is also confused and unsettled. But for Oona, it’s a different problem. Every year she jumps to a random year of her life, different from the age she is inside. It makes for a fun read as Oona tries to mess with her future in the past but fails to stop the heartache, learning that with the pain there is still is fun to be had.

Oona is introduced to the reader in the 1980s as she’s grappling with making a big decision. Go on a university exchange to London, or tour with her boyfriend and their band? There are opportunities for both, but Oona doesn’t really like playing the keyboard…but she doesn’t really want to leave her boyfriend either. But she doesn’t have to right now – as the clock turns over to the new year, Oona wakes to find herself in a beautiful house and in her fifties. What happened? Fortunately for Oona she has her mother and assistant Kenzie to guide her. Past Oona also sometimes writes letters to Future Oona, telling her what to expect (but frustratingly avoiding spoilers). But as Oona jumps between multiple years, she sees ways that she could change her story. Could she? Should she? Or should she just accept her life’s path and that fate will find her?

It’s a very original idea for a novel, and keeping everything else perfectly normal makes the narrative easier to accept (especially if you’re not much of a fan of sci-fi). Part of the fun is the anticipation to where Oona will end up next. She’s financially secure, thanks to a good memory for the future stock market, so she has no restrictions. A year travelling? Sure. A year partying very hard? Not a problem. It’s exciting to read all these versions of Oona, living on the edge or living on a dream. But of course, it’s not all money and travel. Oona unfortunately lives through the bitter breakup of her marriage with no memory of the initial attraction. So when she finds herself meeting her future husband it’s a bittersweet experience, knowing the pain that has already been experienced. The novel is a unique way of looking at emotion and feeling, all mixed up without the linearity of time.

I wish that there were more of Oona’s jumps covered in the novel, but I suppose even she has to have a boring year once in a while. The years that are chosen cover big events in her life and create steady narrative threads that make the story easy to follow without normal time as a background. The Rearranged Life of Oona Lockhart is written with a hint of the surreal, which is very timely. It’s also incredibly absorbing and will take you away from news conferences and social media. I suspect it would be easy to dip in and out of this book, but you won’t want to. The novel has a classic case of just one more chapter (or jump) – give in to Oona and enjoy the ride!

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