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The Two Lives of Lydia Bird

Review

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird

Lydia Bird and her fiancé, Freddie, have been inseparable since they met and fell in love as teenagers. Now they are all grown up, so excited to get married and start the rest of their lives together. But all that dreaming comes to a sudden and agonizing halt when Freddie is killed in a car accident, leaving Lydia adrift and alone.

Her family buoys her up, but Lydia feels increasingly alienated from her everyday life. She can’t go back to work, and her relationship with her oldest friend (and Freddie’s best mate) Jonah has been irreversibly altered. Jonah was in the car with Freddie when he died, so Lydia’s agony and Jonah’s survivor’s guilt make for a painful combination.

"Josie Silver’s novel is a powerful exploration of the crippling weight of grief, and a portrait of an imperfect young woman who’s trying to find her way back to herself the best way she can."

Lydia is having a hard time getting through her days, let alone sleeping at night. So when she’s offered a bottle of tiny pink sleeping pills, she eagerly acquiesces. Much to her surprise, though, the pills don’t give her a night of uninterrupted slumber. Instead they seem to transport her into an alternate dimension, one in which Freddie is still alive. Full of wonder at their transportive properties, Lydia finds herself escaping more and more into this parallel sleeping world, one in which time seems to progress at the same rate as it does in “real life.” But in this version, Lydia moves through time with Freddie by her side.

However, the temptation to visit Freddie in her dreams grows ever more complicated. Lydia soon discovers that things are not always perfect in her “asleep” world. She and Freddie argue, and people suffer losses there, too. And, it turns out, there are joys to discover in the waking world --- even if it’s hard to acknowledge that possibility given Freddie’s absence.

Of course, THE TWO LIVES OF LYDIA BIRD could contain a commentary about the temptations and dangers of substance abuse. Or it might be something more magical or mystical than that; readers will have to decide for themselves about the nature of Lydia’s sleeping and waking lives. Above all, though, Josie Silver’s novel is a powerful exploration of the crippling weight of grief, and a portrait of an imperfect young woman who’s trying to find her way back to herself the best way she can.

Readers who first encountered Silver’s work in her debut novel, ONE DAY IN DECEMBER, which was a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick, will enjoy delving into this equally romantic and significantly more somber novel. And those who are experiencing Silver’s writing for the first time are in for a treat as well, as they follow Lydia on a journey through devastation into something resembling a new beginning.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on March 20, 2020

The Two Lives of Lydia Bird
by Josie Silver

  • Publication Date: March 3, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Romance, Women's Fiction
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 0593135237
  • ISBN-13: 9780593135235