Review Detail4.2 2
Just One Year moves at a very slow pace, lacking the excitement of the “one day” that Allyson and Willem spent together. We pick up after that, going approximately one minute past the events of Just One Day. Though Willem does a lot of interesting things, he’s not propelled by anything, moving at random, so the novel doesn’t have a central thrust. It’s not driven so much by plot as by dramatic irony, the reader trying to piece out how he gets to the end. As the last chapter comes closer, that moves the pace faster. The pacing wasn’t particularly problematic for me, but I can definitely see where readers would struggle with this novel.
In fact, the pacing fits Willem perfectly, as he lacks direction. For all that he has a million fascinating stories to tell and has seen so much of the world, he’s not really engaged in it. Willem’s basically bored by everything, performing his role by rote. He’s driven by a concept of “accidents,” assuming that the world will push him to where he’s “meant to be.” He holds close to his heart his parents’ love story, which would not have come to fruition were it not for a series of accidents. All his life, his attitude has been one of “lol life,” in which he goes along with whatever comes his way.
Allyson, who he knows only as Lulu, came into his life through a similar series of accidents, but, after that one day, everything went wrong. His frustration with actually maybe wanting something and the accident theory not delivering it up on a platter the way life has always done for him leads him into a search that mirror’s Allyson’s in Just One Day. He’s not sure what he feels for her, but he’s not satisfied with what he knows about the day and feels compelled to learn more. His journey takes him to Mexico and India, where he ends up with a fairly significant role in a Bollywood movie.
Willem’s search and disconnection, the way he changes and questions his theories of life, I actually really liked. He is rather a bastard, but he’s starting to grow up somewhat, slowly and painfully. The foundation of his life, the idea that life will deliver the important things to him through happy accidents has been shaken, and he doesn’t know how to be anymore. He’s essentially having a crisis of faith, his interpretation of the universe shattering as he realizes that living without making decisions might not truly be living.
What Left Me Wanting More:
However,the conclusion really didn’t sit well with me. In a lot of ways, I feel like the ending negates the lessons he’s learned throughout the book. The ending is frustrating and incredibly unsatisfying, since, when it comes down to it, we get one more infuriating detail to add to the events of Just One Day.
The Final Verdict:
Depending on what you wanted out of this book, it will either be a confirmation of your beliefs or a frustrating deconstruction of them. Still, though I fell into the latter camp, I still liked it for the typical beauty of Forman’s writing, even if this now falls into place as my least favorite of her books.