Paperback, 416 pages
Published March 4th 2014 by Strange Chemistry
Source: Net Galley
For as long as 17-year-old Alex Wayfare can remember, she has had visions of the past. Visions that make her feel like she’s really on a ship bound for America, living in Jamestown during the Starving Time, or riding the original Ferris wheel at the World’s Fair.
But these brushes with history pull her from her daily life without warning, sometimes leaving her with strange lasting effects and wounds she can’t explain. Trying to excuse away the aftereffects has booked her more time in the principal’s office than in any of her classes and a permanent place at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Alex is desperate to find out what her visions mean and get rid of them.
It isn’t until she meets Porter, a stranger who knows more than should be possible about her, that she learns the truth: Her visions aren’t really visions. Alex is a Descender – capable of traveling back in time by accessing Limbo, the space between Life and Afterlife. Alex is one soul with fifty-six past lives, fifty-six histories.
Fifty-six lifetimes to explore: the prospect is irresistible to Alex, especially when the same mysterious boy with soulful blue eyes keeps showing up in each of them. But the more she descends, the more it becomes apparent that someone doesn’t want Alex to travel again. Ever.
And will stop at nothing to make this life her last.
I went to a Sarah Ellis colloquium the other day and she spoke a lot about writing reviews. She talked about what was expected in a review and how the reviewer is supposed to express the flavor of the novel first before talking about the mechanics of their experience reading the novel. And the review is supposed to be short and succinct. Of course, me being who I am cannot writing short things unless it’s an academic paper in which case, I will run out of things to say after the first paragraph.
The 57 Lives of Alex Wayfare is a debut novel by M. G. Buehrlen and I managed to surprise myself by liking it a lot. I wasn’t expecting anything when I went into the novel because I had managed to forget the premise of the story but I was pleasantly surprised to make the acquaintance of a heroine whose issues are immense but who manages to be fun and wry and eccentric in the right amounts. Alex has been having visions, things she calls déjà vu, and this has led her to tune out the outside world as a protective mechanism. She has a lovely family who manage to both support her and drive her crazy and I like that the parents are both present and alive. There is a sick sister but the story is not about her so I can’t quibble too much.
Buehrlen has a deft touch with her storytelling and I found myself swept away by the lives Alex has led. I most appreciated that she has been so many different people with such different personalities because this gives texture to her character. I won’t lie to you, the mythology is confusing and I’m not certain if Alex was initially created in a test tube and how it is possible to give her different lives but it may not be the fault of the narrative but my brain which refuses to comprehend stuff like that. The mythology is new though and much appreciated for its freshness.
There is also love and the love stuff manages to be cute and heartwarming without taking over the story and you all know how much I like when that happens. I also like that Buehrlen throws a wrench in the love machine and I quite enjoyed the way that complicates things and sets up the potential for a deeper conflict in the next book. I enjoyed this novel and I reckon you will, if you give it a chance, enjoy it too.