If, Then is yet another example of ‘great concept, poor execution‘. Maybe I wouldn’t have minded as much if the story had been told in a less uninvolved narrative.
The story features on a group of neighbours who begin seeing “what ifs“. One sees herself romantically involved with a woman who is currently only her colleague/friend, a woman who has just recently lost her mother starts seeing her dead mother, a man sees a version of himself that suggests some imminent catastrophe.
As I said, I liked the idea of these converging realities…however, I just found the writing to be incredibly frustrating. The writing made each character a mere empty vessel who acted under an inexplicable influence and for some unknown (and hardly credible) reason. They move from A to B, they decide to build bunkers or kiss their friend for no apparent reason! They just go on to do these things but we aren’t told what they feel or why the feel like they should replicate these ‘what-ifs’ they seem to see. We know little about what goes on inside these characters which created a huge disconnect between them, their story and the reader (me).
The writing was almost clinically detached from both the characters and their surroundings. There were a lot of pointlessly descriptive phrases which wouldn’t have bothered me if they had been interspersed in a more variegated prose. We are told when the characters are affect by physical things such as sweating or flushing but not if they are anxious, afraid or overwhelmed by an emotion of any sort. We are told that the characters wear ‘gloves’ on their ‘hands’ and ‘flip-flops’ on their ‘feet’, that their cheeks look flushed or red (I swear that ‘cheeks’ are mentioned one too many times…)…which soon grew tiring. There is an abundance of onomatopoeias that added little to the immediacy of the narrative. The story is told in the present tense and yet everything that happens seems so far away…
Their surroundings are also described in the same expository manner: the water that pours out of the tap, the furniture and house of a character who no impact on the story whats-over…the dispassionate way in which things are described would have been more fitting in an IKEA catalogue (for all I know, an IKEA catalogue might offer its readers a bit more enthusiasm).
The summary describes 90% of the storyline…which combined with the dull storytelling makes this relatively short read a slog to get through.