If, Then

Kate Day Hope

An interesting take on counterfactuals or alternate realities… If, Then follows four neighbors who begin seeing hallucinations that are actually glimpses of other possibilities in their lives. Though the concept has a lot of potential, the actuality of the novel is a bit disappointing. The damp Oregon setting is effective, with the ominously named Broken Mountain looming over the cul-de-sac where the neighbors cross paths.

We learn from Mark, a behavioral ecologist who studies frogs on the mountain, that Broken Mountain may actually be a dormant volcano — if this sounds a bit like Chekhov’s gun to you, well, no spoilers. His wife Ginny is a surgeon at the hospital, who operated on Samara’s mother. Their new neighbor Cass seems to have no connection to anyone else yet, but she is a philosophy Ph. D. student who has some background in counterfactuals, so she is there mostly to give the academic background.

The disappointment here is that the influence of everyone’s parallel lives could go much further. These interludes really just scratch the surface, and the end of the novel doesn’t resolve the multi-realities, though I suppose it doesn’t really have to. Despite these shortcomings, it’s an atmospheric page-turner.