A millennial gets caught up in the ripples of time travel in Houser’s complex sci-fi thriller.
In 2013, Todd Woodside shares a spacious apartment in San Francisco with his boyfriend, Jason. He’s not thrilled with his job as a medical researcher, but it helps to pay the bills. His comfortable life gets turned upside down, however, when, one morning, he wakes up in the body of an 8-year-old boy named Peter Bremer. He quickly realizes that scrawny Peter lives in a trailer with his schizophrenic mother in rural Oregon—and that the year is 1962. Todd’s strange new existence goes from bad to worse when Peter’s father is killed in a traffic accident. Jack Quinn, a local ne’er-do-well ex-convict, eventually marries Peter’s widowed mother. When Todd finally wakes up back in 2013, he hires a private eye to find out if the people he encountered in 1962 actually existed. He discovers that Peter and his mother died in a fire just after Christmas that same year. It turns out that Jack, who also murdered Peter’s best friend, Lloyd, started the fire, and when Todd ends up back in 1962 again, he resolves to kill Jack. However, that’s not as easy to accomplish as he’d hoped. Because of the butterfly effect of time travel, changes that Todd makes to the past could have unexpected consequences. In his debut novel, Houser creates a layered time-travel puzzle. He smartly makes Todd an atypical hero—one who’s spoiled, self-involved, and even a little lazy. As a result, the protagonist is forced to grow as a person when fate thrusts him into the role of Peter’s protector. Thanks to Houser’s effective past-and-present narrative structure, readers will sometimes find Todd’s journeys to be as jarring as he does; however, the author does supply dates at the beginning of each chapter to help orient his audience. As Todd grudgingly embraces his mission to take on Peter’s tormentor, the author presents a bittersweet tale that wraps up with a satisfying conclusion.
A promising first novel featuring an unlikely hero.