A Palo Alto–set domestic drama with a touch of sci-fi: What if the results of one's life choices could be explored not only in daydreams, but with a virtual reality–type app that generates personal "multiverses"?
Dan and Amy are raising a high school senior named Jack and much younger twins, Miles and Theo. Dan is a journalist who's been unemployed too long; his whole sense of self is crumbling, and he's about to have a midlife crisis involving an attractive reporter and a trip to Japan. Amy works for the 19-year-old son of her best friend back on the East Coast. The boy has started a tech company out of his dorm at Stanford, working on a system for exploring multiverses called Furrier.com (his grandma often told his grandpa she should have married the furrier) and using Amy as a guinea pig. Jack has a serious girlfriend who lives in Texas; they spend all their waking hours together via Skype and FaceTime, and she even has dinner with his family. The twins, known as Thing One and Thing Two, are both having issues at elementary school. Around these main characters, Schulman (This Beautiful Life, 2011, etc.) has brought to life a large cast of supporting players with intelligence and humor, even as the story veers pretty suddenly into tragedy in the final third. Even if the workings of the gizmo that allows the user to experience multiverses are never really clear or believable, the questions it raises are profound and engaging and they're woven into the "regular" part of the plot as well, with characters ruminating over the consequences of decisions past and present, great and small. There are a formidable number of elements crammed into this novel, mostly successfully—nuclear disaster in Japan feels a little off-track, while teen suicide clusters in San Jose are on the money—but Schulman is just such a good writer, and the things she's thinking about are so interesting, you'll stay with her right until the end.
Richly imagined, profound, and of the moment.