I first read this book when I was in college in the ’80s (showing my age here). I remember my three roomates and myself passing it around and how excited we all were to find such a great book. Over the years since then, once in awhile something would remind me of it, and I would think about finding a copy and re-reading it. Well, I have finally done that.
The book begins in modern day Boulder, Colorado where Shay Garrett gazes into an old mirror and suddenly finds herself transported almost 100 years into the past. She soon realizes that she is now inside the body of her grandmother, Brandy McCabe, and about to be married to a miner who lives in tiny Nederland, a mining town. Shay must deal with living in a world that is alien to her, living her grandmother’s life, and knowing the future before it happens.
In the meantime, you guessed it, Brandy has now taken over Shay’s body and life. Not only must she deal with the evils of the “modern” world, but she soon realizes that Shay had conceived a child before the big switch. What a shock since Brandy has never even “lain with a man”. I put that world “modern” in quotations because this book was written in 1978 and the world certainly has changed in those 30 years. Probably more than in the 100 years between Brandy and Shay!
I do remember loving the first half of the book (Shay as Brandy) much more than the second half (Brandy as Shay). That still holds true, even though the “blast from the past” descriptions of life in the 70’s were entertaining this time around. The description of the mysterious polished box with a glass front and the words “Zenith Solid-State Chromacolor II” on it and 2 buttons (one labeled Off/On and one labeled Chromatic) made me giggle. Reminded me of our TV when I was a child. Still, I’d love to chop the last 100 pages off and add 100 to the first part of the book. I’ve become a bit more discriminating in my reading since the first time around and the writing in this book is not particularly good. Why does Millhiser insist on using contractions whenever possible? (Shay’d walked around the house as if she were in a trance … Rachael’d carried a tray of goblets into the dining room, etc.)
All criticism aside, if you like time travel books give this one a try. Even with its faults it is an entertaining read.
An interesting aside: The house Shay/Brandy lives in is referred to as “The Gingerbread House” throughout the book. There really is a “Gingerbread House” in Boulder. It’s pictured on the cover of the book, and you can check it out here as well.