What if…I went down a different path in life?
What if…reality came crashing down on me?
What if…my family didn’t actually exist the way I thought?
A Day Like This by debut author Kelley McNeil isn’t just a emotional, heart-wrenching story, it’s a thought-provoking exploration of how the choices made in the past can lead to vastly different outcomes. Our protagonist, Annie Beyers, has a fairly picturesque life out in rural New York State, content with her husband and daughter in the little yellow house she’s always dreamed of. One night, her daughter Hannah comes down with a high fever and a concerned Annie loads her into the car and speeds towards town to bring her to the pediatrician. Annie barely has time to register that she’s about to crash in the middle of an intersection when everything goes black–and she wakes up in the hospital, confused. Of course her first thoughts are for Hannah–only to be told by nervous doctors and her own husband that, in fact, Hannah doesn’t exist and never has.
In the hands of a different author, this plot could have been stale and predictable and either painted Annie as a pathetic, completely delusional nutcase, or spun the story into a fast-paced, bizarre mystery where it turns out her husband’s bosses’ Illuminati banking group kidnapped Hannah to make Annie think she was crazy for some sort of weird eventual profit until the super-hot private detective successfully rescues Hannah from the top of a 3,000 year old ziggurat and seduces Annie happily ever after. Instead, Kelley McNeil chooses to keep the focus on Annie’s day to day life, exploring how one navigates a life they can’t quite remember while grieving terribly for a child they do clearly remember but no longer exists. Annie’s grief is realistically heartbreaking, and anyone who has lost a child may find those scenes hit close to home. Additionally, Annie’s life isn’t “the same except without a child,” which is what I feel other authors might have stuck with–Annie finds herself without a child, but discovers that in this present, she made choices that led her to be an extremely wealthy, successful New York City artist, rather than the content country housewife she thought she was. Most of us will never know what our lives would have been like had we made different decisions eight or nine years ago, but Annie does, and her reactions and struggles feel realistic and not forced, especially as both Annie and the reader attempt to determine if Hannah really is just a figment of Annie’s imagination, or if there’s something deeper at play.
There’s a touch of the paranormal woven lightly throughout the book, but it isn’t overly dominating and Annie herself questions if it might just be a side effect of her deteriorating mental state. The conclusion of a mystery story such as this can make or break the entire book depending if the reader feels like they were intentionally misled just to drag out the narrative, or if they feel it was all worth it for a satisfying conclusion. Kelley McNeil wraps everything up expertly, in a way that made me double check to make sure this really was Kelley’s debut novel! I’ll be looking forward to other books by Kelley McNeil in the future.
Disclaimer: I received a prerelease copy of this book for free through the Amazon Prime First Reads Program and read it on my 10th generation Kindle Oasis. I was not paid for this review, and all opinions are my own.
Title: A Day Like This
Author: Kelley McNeil
Publication Date: 01 November 2021
Print Length: 287 pages
Marie’s Rating: 5 out of 5 stars