The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

Claire North
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August  Cover

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August


There are not many books that I invest enough time to reach the halfway point, but then ultimately decide to set aside as DNF. Usually I hit that point early, early enough I would never consider writing a review, or even bothering to mark it as anything in Goodreads. I debated about what to do with this one. Do I review it? Is that fair if I did not actually finish the book? I decided that if I was upfront and honest about only reading half, that anyone reading my review can decide to take or leave it.

So, since I led with the fact that I DNF'd this one, I'll start with the positive aspects of the book, the elements that allowed me to make it to the halfway point despite not finishing. The book is very well written. Now, before anyone jumps in and says "But, wait! If it was well written, why couldn't you finish it??" North definitely has the ability to weave a story and construct extremely quotable prose. I love when I find a book that is chock full of great one liners and statements that are just begging to be highlighted! This book definitely is that. If I leave you with nothing else, I hope to leave you knowing that the author did a great job telling the story she wanted to tell.

The problem? It turns out it just wasn't a story I felt like reading. That should not invalidate the book, or turn others off. There are plenty of people that had the opposite reaction as me and loved the story and concept. Harry August is a kalacharka, which means after death, he is born again. Not in a future life like I expected, but the same birth in the same place. Kalacharkas live a rather long Groundhog day of a life where they are repeatedly born to live their life again. They remember parts of their previous lives, and so can try to make changes in the world through each subsequent life. But supposedly they should only be minor changes. I just found something about the concept made me ask way too many questions. Some of my questions were addressed on some level, but the answers just gave me more questions, and ultimately I began to feel a bit snarky and that the concept just pushed my willing suspension of disbelief a bit too hard. Now, why I would have an easier time accepting being born again in a future life rather than the same life, I can't really answer you. Both are obviously fictional scenarios, I guess I am just a bit biased in my time-traveling/re-incarnation/born-again scenarios.

I can't help but wonder if this is a book that if I read at a different time, I might enjoy it more. Some stories I will always love, some stories I will never love. Then there are some stories that I think my general mood/attitude can greatly impact my reaction. Unfortunately I will never know for sure, at least not anytime soon. Perhaps if I pick it up in a couple of years, I will forget all of my questions/concerns/nit-picking with this one and can start fresh.