My Two Lives: A Supernatural Time-Travel Thriller
Sixth Element Publishing
Arthur Robinson House
13-14 The Green
Billingham TS23 1EU, United Kingdom
Jill Woods has a teaching job that is slowly taking over her life, and not necessarily in a good way; she is working constantly, returning to an empty house and a bottle of wine. Her husband has found someone else and she's in the middle of a frustrating divorce, soon to lose her home as well. In the classroom, while she's worked hard to find ways to keep the more annoying students at bay, and keep the personal anxieties out of the teaching environment, the administration is bringing in newbie teachers to "instruct" those with real teaching experience, in whatever lame new plan the education department has concocted.
The stress is mounting, so it isn't a complete surprise when Jill tunes out one day in the supply closet and has a very real daydream -- suddenly she is in Victorian England, the time period being covered in the class -- a daydream so real she can feel the heaviness of the skirt and petticoats, the ribbons of the bonnet tied under her chin, and she can smell the dank streets. She writes it off as stress and an attempt by her psyche to hide out from an unhappy daily life, but it upsets her at a level she can't quite understand.
Unwilling to tell anyone else of her adventure, lest she be thought bonkers, she throws herself into work and forgets, as best she can, about the incident -- until it happens again. This book is the story of her attempts to find out what on earth is going on, because not only is she in these "dreams" that happen ever more frequently during her waking life, but so are folks she sees every day, and so is an old flame, the man she thought she would marry someday who left her to go to America, crushing her hopes for true happiness.
Jan Hunter has done an excellent job of taking the reader into Jill's world (both worlds, actually), especially in her ability to provide the sense of disconnection and confusion when time frames shift, so that the reader is just as surprised as Jill is when she's suddenly whisked off. I won't say a lot about how the plot goes to avoid spoilers, but there is a lot to think about in this book, about the education system in Britain, the power of relationships and family, and the history of Victorian times. Jill, ever the teacher, is able to describe the daily realities of those times to her students (and indirectly to the reader) because she's "been there" and can bring out issues their textbooks don't mention. Jan, the author, gets us thinking about the difference in the times, and in the people who live in them.
What can Jill do to keep her sanity? How many friends can she tell before they are all ready to see her committed? What possible purpose can this time travel serve? The author has done a brilliant job of bringing in memorable characters who come in and out of both worlds without confusing the reader, no small task.
This is a great read, a book that's difficult to put down once started, and a definite mental get-away from the world around us. The reader is left feeling they've had a great adventure, but once the book is put down, there are still lingering musings about our lives and how we live them, and how we share them with others. I highly recommend this book.
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