YOU CANNOT MESS THIS UP by Amy Weinland  Daughters

YOU CANNOT MESS THIS UP

A True Story That Never Happened
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KIRKUS REVIEW

In Daughters’ debut fantasy, a struggling writer travels home to Texas and magically goes back in time to 1978, where she encounters her younger self.

Amy Daughters (who shares the author’s name) is a married mother of two in her mid-40s who writes about sports. She takes a flight on a private plane—piloted by her husband’s boss’s wife, Mary—from Ohio to her native Houston to meet with her siblings and her elderly dad to plan his estate. During the flight, she takes a nap, and when she wakes up, she finds that she’s been mysteriously transported back in time to 1978. Mary tells Amy that she’ll be visiting her family members, including her younger self, for just a day and a half, masquerading as a distant cousin in town for Thanksgiving. Bewildered and intrigued, Amy meets the younger versions of her dependable dad, Dick; her perfectionist mother, Sue; her older sister, Kim; and Star Wars-fan brother, Rick. Amy struggles to remain composed, but she finds herself profoundly moved by the experience. Most of all, she’s concerned about her 10-year-old self—an awkward, exuberant ball of energy with a bowl cut. She wants to tell the girl, who’s desperate for attention and validation, that everything will be fine in the end. Grandparents arrive, Thanksgiving dinner is served, and later on, a drunken party with neighbors goes awry. Daughters’ back-in-time family drama is full of razor-sharp descriptions of 1970s suburbia (“Her hair was carefully coiffed, and she wore a stunning burnt-orange pantsuit that, though absolutely horrible, somehow worked for her”), along with witty observations that range in tone from deadpan to ebullient. The well-thought-out premise allows the protagonist narrator to figure out how she can best improve her past and her own present. However, the author supplies a tremendous amount of detail, which slows the pace of the novel, and advances in the plot can feel too far apart at times. But overall, this is a memorable and appealingly authentic story about reconciling with one’s younger days.

A refreshingly unsentimental novel of family. 

ISBN: 978-1-63152-583-4
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: She Writes Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
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