We have all made decisions in our lives that we often wonder about later. What if I had said “Yes” instead of “No”? What if I had turned left instead of right? We drive ourselves crazy wondering about how our lives might have turned out had we taken a different
Valerie Connelly calls these alternate routes “sidetracks”. In “Sidetracks,” she weaves a fascinating story of what might have been. The novel begins with the brutal and seemingly senseless assault on businesswoman Hannah Sebastian and deliveryman Peyton Staley. Both are seriously wounded and are taken, unconscious, to the hospital. Meanwhile Hannah’s friend, Lynn Hargrove, and Detective Jim O’Riley work tirelessly
to find the attacker.
Hannah and Peyton find themselves being transported to a train on the other side of reality, conducted by “The Processor.” Each is forced to recall memories from deep within their past and must relive a certain portion of their lives in order to determine whether or not they should go on living.
Their first stop is called the Formation Environment. Events from their past are played out in front of them, so each can learn why they are who they are. Next they are taken to the Choices Environment, where they will learn what would have happened if they chosen the sidetrack, instead of the road they did. They can each choose one of three areas to relive: ‘Fortunes, Gained & Lost,’ ‘Love, Gained & Lost,’ and ‘Risks, Taken & Not Taken.’
While Jim and Lynn learn more about the victims and the strange connection between them, Hannah and Peyton are taken back to a critical juncture in their lives and forced to take the alternative choice. The remainder of their time is spent reliving their lives as it plays out along the new road. As you might expect, the alternative brings good and bad, happiness and sorrow to their lives. They come to learn much about themselves and each other and both are ultimately allowed to return to earth to live out their remaining lives.
“Sidetracks” will interest anyone who has ever asked “what if”. Ms. Connelly presents the subject in such a unique way, allowing us to completely follow along with Hannah and Peyton in their “alternate” lives. While I hopefully will never be placed in such a precarious position as they were, reading the book has forced me to consciously look for the sidetracks in my own life and carefully consider all possible choices and consequences before making a decision. I guarantee it will start you thinking as well.
Reviewed by Cyndy Zoch for Reader Views (4/06)