I’m not ordinarily into books about time travel but Q by Evan Mandery begins with a first date where the couple make lists – Greatest Game Show Hosts of All Time*; Best Sit-Com Theme Songs**; Top Frozen Dinners***. In my opinion, that’s enough to recommend it.
The story is narrated by the unnamed main character. Shortly before his wedding to a woman named Q (“Q, Quentina Elizabeth Deveril, is the love of my life.”), he is visited by a man who claims to be his future self who ominously tells him that he must not marry Q. His reasons are compelling (and made me cry). The narrator leaves his fiancée and the void in his life is impossible to fill. One after the other, future selves arrive urging him to marry someone else, divorce, attend law school, leave law school, travel, join a running club, stop running, study the guitar, the cello and so on. The only constants in all these versions of his life are his yearning for Q and New York City, which is used as a wonderful backdrop.
It may seem trite but I mean it when I say Q is beautifully imaginative – do small decisions alter the course of our future? Would you go back and change a particular event if you could? Mandery has included well thought out details with his version of time travel (which he names ‘chronoambulation’) from the use of currency and world events down to the changes in personal habits and health of the main character.
It will seem equally trite to label this book ‘quirky’ however it is the perfect description for Mandery’s writing style. The characters are odd, the humour kooky.
“They stay long into the night, drunk on Miller Lite and chocolate cake, and sit Indian-style on the lanes telling stories about Q and me, many of which we have never heard about each other before, including the surprising fact that Q had a poster of Brian Austin Green over her bed until she was twenty-four. It is a magical evening.”
My one gripe with Q is the ‘stories within the story’. The main character is a writer and some of his work is included as stand-alone chapters in the book. Sure, there were themes within these stories that related to the overarching narrative but I could have done without them – overall, distracting and too long.
Finally, without spoiling the ending, I loved it. There was enough of a conclusion to satisfy readers who need an outcome but others will see that Mandery left some wiggle-room in the ending – I’m part of the later group and went back over the various ages of the narrator to reconsider his changes in destiny.
3.5/5 Mandery’s concept of time travel was clever and on that basis, Q is worth a read.
It’s possible that Mandery is a bit of a foodie – there were lots of exquisite descriptions of food in Q and all were delivered in Mandery’s particular style. For example –
“In the green room, they have put out fruit. The spread consists of cantaloupe and honeydew and watermelon. I do not care for honeydew, but I respect it as a melon.”
However my favourite was the reference to toffee. Remember those teeth-breaking toffees found at fetes for ten cents? My mum rarely let us buy them (because of the teeth-breaking bit) but on the occasions that we did get one, it was pure sugar heaven.
“Toffee can only be made well in cold weather. When it’s warm or humid, the sugar does not caramelize properly. True connoisseurs will only eat toffee made withing one month of the winter solstice.”
So while my toffee-making window of opportunity has officially closed for the year, here’s a video recipe I’ll be filing away for next year.
*Fondly recall Tony Barbar and his enthusiastic entrance onto the set of Sale of the Century every night.
**’The Facts of Life‘ – how is that I have not retained anything I learned in Year 12 Chemistry yet could still sing this in my sleep? And I also wish I had ‘Charles in Charge‘ of me.
***Don’t eat frozen dinners. Make an omlette.