Article first published as Book Review: 2012: Midnight at Spanish Gardens by Alma Alexander on Blogcritics.
In 2012: Midnight at Spanish Gardens Alma Alexander has taken the time as a way to change lives. Spanish Gardens is a meeting place for many groups of students over the years and this time is no different. However the students meeting there this night have all grown up and lived full lives. Meeting again to celebrate a birthday, Olivia and four other friends find themselves following the flow of history. There is anger and heartache and some of these very friends have lost touch due to hurt feelings and anger. Now is the time to put that all behind them and recoup some of the camaraderie of youth. 20 years have passed and time has changed them all. Meeting again and rehashing their old lives and loves, each of them wonders about what the next day will bring.
As each of the friends receives a strange set of instructions from one of the bartenders, time seems at a crossroad of possibilities. The instruction takes them to a portal, to a new life and a chance of redemption, or an opportunity to return to the life they have always known. Each is given a choice of changes on this night of discovery, a life that may have been––if different decisions had been made.
Choosing what you know and what you have always felt is difficult and there is only a small window of time to make the right decision. Will they each choose an alternate path on this pivotal night, or will they continue on with the life they chose from the beginning. The decision is difficult, to change what is real now, will change everything leading up to this time. People you know, families, and the lives you have touched and for those to whom you have made a difference will no long have that part of you should you chose a different path. Once the decision is made all memory will fade other than the life you have chosen. The other existence fades away in memory.
Alexander takes a time of possible transition or even renewal and puts a strange and surreal twist on it. The characters are brought to life as they each take a seeming crossroads as they enter a portal of time. As they make choices different from those before, you gain a deeper understanding of who they are and their strengths as well as their potential failures. As they pass the crossroads they do not remember the life behind them, until it is time to choose. For a short period of time both lives intersect, but once the choice is made memory fades.
Watching the interaction and choices that each character reestablishes invokes a strange feeling of inevitability. You wait with bated breath as the final decision is made. Which direction do they turn? It is very dreamlike and sequential, strangely vivid and yet like watching the interaction through water. The flow is interesting and yet each decision will affect someone differently and change lives in a way that is uncomfortable.
The descriptions and visuals add a depth to the story. The interactions of the characters in the here and now, offer a glimpse of lives that could have been different. The chance to remake their choices is one we often wonder about, would we make the same decisions if given a chance to do it all over again? How will this group of friends react to the chance of a do over?
I would recommend this book for those who enjoy though provoking dialogue. It would make a great read for a reading group of book club. There is insight and reflection with a dose of inspiration in this work that keeps you thinking.
This book was received as a free copy from the author. All opinions are my own based off my reading and understanding of the material.