Kate Atkinson in the Multiverse of Sadness

Alternate timelines and multiple realities vibrating at different frequencies are mostly associated with science-fiction narratives and especially with superhero stories. 

They’re fun in part because they involve big changes around big historical events and important, powerful people. 

Kate Atkinson’s 2013 slow-paced tour de force Life After Life, in contrast, is less about how big changes affect everyone, and more about how small changes affect small people. 

Ursula Todd, the protagonist, is born in a snowstorm to an upper-middle-class British family in 1910. The doctor can’t get to the home, and Ursula strangles on her own umbilical cord. 

That’s the end of her story. 

“A helpless little heart beating wildly. Stopped suddenly like a bird dropped from the sky. A single shot. Darkness fell.”