Oona Out of Order by Margarita Montimore is a lovely, time-bending novel that explores what it’s like to truly live life in the moment. At first, this book eluded me. I don’t mean in a literary sense. I mean literally eluded me. I lost this book so many times, it really felt like Oona herself didn’t want to be read. Once I eventually located Oona, I read her in one evening; I couldn’t help being drawn into into her chaos.
The book opens with Oona Lockheart (don’t you just love that name?) on the precipice of the rest of her life. She’s about to turn 19 at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve and she’s got her whole life ahead of her. However, at the stroke of midnight, instead of turning 19, Oona discovers she’s just turned 51. It is at this moment Oona learns that instead of experiencing her life in chronological order, she will “leap” from one year of her life (on the precipice of turning 19) to a completely asynchronous year of her life (having just turned 51) at midnight every NYE. The “science fiction” of this book is the idea of a character having some unclear, perhaps genetic, flaw that prevents her from living her life chronologically. Oona gets one year in a completely random age and then at the stroke of midnight the next year, she’s magically transported to a different age.
Of course, the first few leaps are quite jarring. On the night leading to her first leap, Oona is struggling with a very difficult decision. Like most young adults with their lives before them, Oona has options. She can spend the summer touring Europe with her boyfriend, Dale (with whom she’s madly in love) and their band, Early Dawning (an homage to Velvet Underground). Or, Oona can attend a London university with her friend, Pam, and study economics. Oona is truly torn and time is running out; she needs to decide in a matter of days. It’s a classic choice; realism versus idealism; follow your head or follow your heart? But then, at the stroke of midnight, just like that, Oona has fast-forwarded to the year 2015. She is now 51 and the tough decision has been made (though time traveling, “Older Oona” makes sure to avoid “spoilers” for “Present Oona”, our narrator). At first, Oona finds her condition difficult to comprehend. She spends most of 51/19 skeptical whether or not she’s insane, or dreaming, or both. Every morning, Oona is convinced she will wake up and it’ll all be a dream. However, at the stroke of midnight on December 31, 2015, Oona is instantly transported to 1991 where she is now 27/20. Of course she’s thrilled to be young again and spends most of this year “clubbing”. Through Oona’s leaps, she learns about love and loss, grief and anger. Every year she’s unmoored and has to learn how to be Oona again.
This book was a well-written page turner (did I mention I read it in one night?). Time travel and questioning life choices go hand in hand. Would you start that love affair with the wonderful guy if you knew how it would end? When every shred of evidence you have in front of you tells you to do one thing, would you listen to your instincts and do the opposite? Oh, I forgot to mention, if you’re a fan of music, Oona will not disappoint. Here’s some of the music that’s mentioned throughout. Oona’s favorite song is Sunday Morning by Velvet Underground. Fifty-one year old Oona listens to Kate Bush’s Ninth Wave (yes, that Kate Bush) over and over again. Thirty-nine year old Oona comforts someone who gets emotional during Suzanne Vega singing In Liverpool. Thirty-five year old Oona has tickets to a Garbage concert where she might’ve heard Only Happy When It Rains. Forty-year-old Oona wakes up married to a stranger who is a fan of Nirvana. And 19-year-old Oona leaps into a NYE party playing Velvet Underground’s All Tomorrow’s Parties.
Amazon is developing Oona Out of Order as a series (don’t quote me on that name), release date TBD.