What if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: \u201cThis life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more.\u201d \r\nWould you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? \r\nOr have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: \u201cYou are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.\u201d\r\nAuthor Kate Atkinson explores this question by Nietzsche in her book Life after Life, one of the most fascinating and original novels I\u2019ve ever had the pleasure of reading. I know \u2013 high praise that will raise one\u2019s expectations \u2013 I know. But believe me when I say that this novel \u2013 which could have failed on so many different levels \u2013 is a gem. \r\nWe meet Ursula Todd on the very day she is born: February 11, 1910. The umbilical cord is wrapped around her throat, and she dies shortly after her birth. \r\n\u201cThe little heart. A helpless little heart beating wildly. Stopped suddenly like a bird dropped from the sky. A single shot. Darkness fell.\u201d \r\nBut on the very next page, we are back at the beginning again. February 11, 1910, and this time the doctor arrives in time and has saved Ursula\u2019s life. He cut the cord in the nick of time, and we are on our way through Ursula\u2019s many lives. We will witness her birth 10 more times during the course of the book. \r\nAt first, Ursula doesn\u2019t make it out of childhood; we see her die as a young child during an ordinary day at the beach. We start over. This time, as she navigates through her days and nights, I realized that I was experiencing a strange sensation as I read: fear. Fear for this little girl. Good grief, do not go out on the icy roof! Something bad could happen \u2013 and it does. Over and over. \r\nSometimes Ursula comes into life with a vague remembrance of things she should not do, or things she should not allow to happen. It\u2019s d\u00e9j\u00e0 vu in its purest form. In some lives, her parents are worried about her seeming ability to predict the future. But in other lives, she has no premonitions, no clue as to the outcome of her life. \r\nThrough the various incarnations that we witness, Ursula dies many times and in many different ways. But gradually one thread begins to emerge in this complicated weave, and a purpose for Ursula \u2013 a reason for living, perhaps \u2013 begins to emerge. The question is: can Ursula control the outcome of anything in her future lives?\r\nKate Atkinson is such a gifted writer; who else could make the same story, told over and over again, seem new and exciting each time? \r\nEach life presents minute differences, differences which end up making serious changes occur later on in time. \r\nAtkinson also allows us to bond with Ursula and her family \u2013 a strong bond that makes this a very emotional read. \r\nI loved this book, and I\u2019m ready to dive into the companion novel that was published earlier this year, called A God in Ruins. It\u2019s the story of Ursula\u2019s brother Teddy, told not in life after life, but in flashbacks and in awe of the fact that he\u2019s still alive after the war, trying to get through a future he never thought he\u2019d have.