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Begin Again


Begin Again

It’s August 2023, the eve of Frankie McKenzie’s 36th birthday, and she’s worried that she’s stuck in a life she never chose. Marooned in a stifling job (she’s a celebrity gossip columnist for an online magazine), striking out at bad first date after bad first date, Frankie has watched her friends and former boyfriends couple up, marry off, have kids and move to the suburbs, while she continues to lead her fabulous single lifestyle in London all alone.

But Frankie hardly has time to contend with this existential crisis before --- in the wake of yet another terrible first date --- she trips on the front step of her favorite kebab shop and dies of a subdural hematoma.

"Helly Acton's BEGIN AGAIN will appeal to fans of the TV show 'The Good Place,' as well as novels such as OONA OUT OF ORDER and IN FIVE YEARS."

However, that’s not the end of Frankie’s story. In fact, it might be just the beginning as she wakes up in a place called The Station. A sort of spiritual conductor named Mabel tells her that, after reviewing her case, the powers that be have decided to give her one more chance --- actually, five of them --- to see what her life might look like had she made different choices (or any choice at all) instead of just coasting through the way she has been.

Soon, Frankie is zipping back to the same August night, hours before her demise. But in each case, she is dropped into a different version of reality. In one, she has decided not to turn down an opportunity to live abroad and teach English language learners in Mexico. In another, she accepts the marriage proposal of her first serious boyfriend. In yet another, she is living in Los Angeles with a media mogul and appears to have had a lot of plastic surgery.

During each new lease on life, Frankie starts out optimistic and even excited, convinced that this version of her life is the one that’s worth living for, the one that shows her definitively where her past self took a wrong turn. But, perhaps inevitably, in the course of just a few hours, she soon discovers that not all is paradise in this different reality. Places, experiences and, most importantly, people from her “real” life are absent here.

Helly Acton's BEGIN AGAIN will appeal to fans of the TV show “The Good Place,” as well as novels such as OONA OUT OF ORDER and IN FIVE YEARS. Frankie’s perspective is witty, a bit manic and self-deprecating in a humorous way. She is a character who is blind to some faults and hyperaware of others. Readers will be cheering for her to make, if not the “perfect” choice, choices that will sustain her and bring about the future she deserves.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on April 20, 2024

Begin Again
by Helly Acton