Book Review: Oona Out of Order, Margarita Montimore
As a fan of time travel stories, I can say that Oona Out of Order wasn’t among the most thrilling (The Time Traveler’s Wife), or romantic (Outlander) or darkest (Doomsday Book) I have read, but it did contain elements of those terrific reads. What set it apart was a unique wrinkle. The protagonist, Oona Lockhart, at the stroke of midnight on January 1st, as she turns 19, faints and awakens thirty two years in the future in her fifty-one-year-old body. She soon learns that this is her new normal and that every New Year’s Eve the same drama will play out, depositing her in a random year of her life. She is still the same woman, emotionally and mentally, on the inside, but inhabits the body of whatever year the next dislocation brings. These time travel rules seem a little complicated, but you soon get the hang of it as Oona adjusts to her internal vs. external age. And it is quite a romp. Often with no knowledge of the intervening years, the relationships she finds herself in, not to mention the current technologies and pop culture fads, she often is just getting used to things when her birthday rolls around, and she is wrenched to a new existence as the cycle repeats. It is understandable that she struggles to feel grounded, despite supporting characters like her mother Madeleine and confidante Kenzie who serve as guides and attempt to provide her some structure as she faces life’s triumphs and heartbreaks.
Oona Out of Order contains lighthearted elements, poignant moments, and has a dizzying quality as our heroine attempts to negotiate her newly disjointed existence. You come to admire her for facing up to the challenge with wit and self-awareness. She leaves a note for the next iteration of herself every year, but soon finds that following her own advice is of little help. Oona discovers that with some things she can take advantage of knowing the future, such as her finances. Others, like relationships and making important life decisions are a little more difficult to navigate, which serve to highlight the unpredictability and imperfections we all encounter.
I enjoyed the different time travel “rules” and found myself rooting for Oona to make it through the labyrinth her life has become and be happy. The characters are well drawn and there are just enough twists in the plot to keep you going. Not the most dramatic example of the genre, but unique, thought provoking and touching. You want to press on because you never know from one year to the next what unusual complications Oona will face. You want to know how she will manage it, and what will be revealed. An enjoyable, escapist read, even if you aren’t necessarily into time travel. This is more of a story about love, commitment and self discovery than anything else.