Weekend Read by Claudine Wolk: "Wrong Place, Wrong Time" by Gillian McAllister
Claudine Wolk is an author, podcast host, and book marketing consultant. Find her writing at claudinewolk.substack.com.
Arts News Now’s Claudine Wolk reviews the newly released thriller novel, Wrong Place, Wrong Time, by Gillian McAllister.
Gillian McAllister is not new to popular novels. This is her sixth novel and she has already released her seventh book this year (2023. This popular British author has a BA in English plus a law degree. She works as a solicitor and writes novels in her spare time. In an interview for Penguin UK, she was asked how she comes up with her story ideas. Her response, “I am definitely drawn to the gritty, but I like to find humane ways in to it. I might ostensibly be writing about the way a gang behaves, but it isn’t a gang, it’s a perfectly normal family thrown into a situation where they are forced to turn inwards and protect.” – a perfect description of what a reader will find in Wrong Place, Wrong Time.
Wrong Place, Wrong Time is a time-travel, suspense mystery. The premise is so clever and interesting that I was worried that the author might not be able to pull it off. Could McAllister maintain the suspense, interest, and believability of the main character, Jen, going back day after day, sometimes “jumping” backs days, week, months and then years at a time in a “Groundhog Day” – like idea?
Would the time travel make sense? Would the theory of time travel make sense to Jen’s assumed purpose? Would the reader continue to care?
The answer is yes. McAllister pulls it off. This book is one of the most fun, thought-provoking, twisty novels I have read in a long time.
Jen is the happily married mom of a teenage boy, Todd. One night while looking out the window for Todd to come home, she spots him on the street with a man unknown to her. In horror, she witnesses Todd stab the man. Police cars arrive on the scene almost instantly and Todd is arrested. At the police station, Jen and her husband of 20 years, Kelly, are apoplectic as they are denied access to Todd, who refuses to see them or accept the aid of solicitor. Jen and Kelly are left to return home and go to sleep.
The next morning, Jen wakes to find that she is reliving the day before the day Todd was arrested. Todd is at home in his room, not arrested, thank goodness, but Jen is bewildered. Why is she reliving this day? Is it to learn something that might help Todd?
As the story progresses, Jen sometimes goes back weeks and then months and then years. She actually learns how to use these leaps to learn what she thinks she needs to learn to help her son. She also reaches out to experts who help her understand the philosophy and physics behind time travel. The book describes this time travel as a “time-like curve.”
“It seems to happen when a huge force is exerted on the body.” “… the force would have to be stronger than gravity to create a time loop.” “The force would need to be one thousand times her (Jen’s) body weight.”
Could a “Mother’s Love” be enough force to cause a time-like curve?
What would YOU do different if you could go back in time? What would you notice in your life if you didn’t have the constant pressure of work/life tasks? Both are interesting questions and through Jen, the reader can vicariously ponder the answers.
There are many themes that the book illuminates. One theme is a mother’s work-life balance. In the early leap days, Jen is constantly berating herself and her choices. Could she have been a better mom if not for her career? I found Jen’s second guessing a heartbreaking exercise. Every Mom thinks that she doesn’t do enough for her family. It’s an unfair self-criticism for any mom but interesting to see life and relationships in a new way through the time travel lens presented in the story.
The mini- study of “doing it a second time” was particularly enlightening. For example, the author demonstrates how a different answer to a question from your child produces a new effect. Acknowledging the new effects of attending a child’s event, for example, “being fully present” when you simply didn’t have time the first time around was fascinating. The protagonist’s musings are merely the subtext of the complete story’s genre, however, which is a mystery and suspense on how Todd ended up stabbing a man and what Jen can do to stop it.
Wrong Place, Wrong Time is a clever, fun, disciplined, suspense thriller with time travel and lots of twists and turns. It is a genre that is so unique, I think the ‘book gods’ might need to create a new category for it. It is surely destined for the big screen. I loved it.
Title: Wrong Place, Wrong Time
Author: Gillian McAllister
Pub Date: 08/2/2022
Publisher: William Morrow
Page Count: 416 pp