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Past Perfect Life: 12/14/19

Past Perfect Life

Past Perfect Life by Elizabeth Eulberg is about a horrible secret that's revealed after Ally Smith tries to apply to college. The application process is a grueling process, but she doesn't expect to learn that she's not who she thinks she is. Nor does she expect her father to be arrested or a long dead mother to turn out alive and living in Florida.

While there is a long burn for all of these revelations, beyond a short prolog, there's still the last two thirds, the aftermath of this revelation. The second half is the media storm and Ally struggling to gain control of her life. The final third is her brief sojourn to Florida, powerless to do anything else for the six remaining weeks that she's a minor.

The final third of the book falls into the road narrative spectrum, as does the backstory which is revealed through various dialogs between Ally and her father, and later between Ally and her mother. The bulk of the tension in this novel is from the interplay between the original trip and the one that Ally can't avoid.

For the backstory, the travelers are a family: a father and a daughter (33). Their destination is rural Wisconsin (33). The road they take is the interstate (00) as we know from the father's admission of missing his exit and then taking it as a sign to keep going. That initial event then is 333300 or a family traveling to a rural town via the interstate, where they can hide and start a new life.

Chart showing the relative spectrum placement of the three road narratives in this novel.

Ally, though, is facing a mandatory return to a life in Florida she doesn't remember to live with a mother she doesn't remember and her stepfather and stepsister. This journey is again taken by a family of travelers (33). The destination is home (66), even if it no longer feels like home for Ally. The route taken, though, is offroad, in that she and her mother fly (66).

The resolution, though, is one more adjustment to the road narrative spectrum, in that Ally returns to Wisconsin with her extended family, namely friends she considers closer to her than her Floridian biological family. (33). Her destination is once again rural Wisconsin (33). Her route there, though, offroad again, as she's flying (66).

Thus Past Perfect Life uses three different types of road narratives to build tension and drama. For the placement of the novel as a whole, on the spectrum I'm choosing the Florida reunion as it's the most upsetting piece to Ally's life and mental wellbeing.

Five stars

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