Birthday Present

Last Wednesday was my birthday, and the universe gave me a present. To tell you how it happened, I need to briefly walk you through the day. When my wife and I woke up, the novel I’m reading was on my mind. It’s Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson, who is my favorite novelist of all time. This book was a sensation when it came out in 2013; this is actually my second reading. As with everything of Atkinson’s, I’m getting a whole lot more out of it the second time through. My #1 very favorite novel of all time is Atkinson’s first: Behind the Scenes at the Museum. (I wrote a little bit about it here.) It is the most sweeping, intimate, hilarious, poignant, breathtaking chronicle of one person’s life, opening at the very moment that its hero, Ruby Lennox, springs to life as a single fertilized egg cell (and since the whole book is told in the first person, from Ruby’s point of view, that is quite a neat trick) up through its conclusion with Ruby in her forties. As I said, on my birthday I awoke with Atkinson on the brain. Her latest book, A God in Ruins, is a sort of companion novel to Life After Life. It came more than a month ago, but before I tackled it I wanted to reread Life first, so it would be fresh in my mind. Ana and I had breakfast, loaded the car, and drove to New York City for the day. Ana had some meetings scheduled to do some work for Brandon Webb’s Red Circle Foundation,...