Book Review: Beth Harbison's If I Could Turn Back Time

I finally finished reading Beth Harbison's novel, If I Could Turn Back Time over the weekend. I started reading this some time in June. I fully intended to finish it just before my 34th birthday with an intention of writing a blog post about my reflections on the story but well work was crazy busy in June and July so I didn't get to do that. But here I am finally with that long over due blog post! 




This is another one of the books I bought during the Big Bad Wolf Books sale. I've never read a Beth Harbison novel nor have I encountered any other one of her books before but it called out to me when I was browsing the many books lying down on the tables at the sale.

I mean interesting title right? The story is every bit as interesting.

Thirty-seven-year-old Ramie Phillips has led a very successful life. She made her fortune, and now she hobnobs with the very rich and occasionally the semifamous. She enjoys luxuries she only dreamed of as a middle-class kid growing up in Potomac, Maryland. But despite it all, she can;t ignore the fact that she isn't necessarily happy. In fact, lately Ramie has begun to feel more than a little empty.

On a boat with friends off the Florida coast, she tries to fight her feelings of discontent with denial and champagne. No one even notices as she gets up and goes to the diving board and dives off...

Suddenly, Ramie is waking up, straining to understand a voice calling in the distance... It's her mother: "Wake up! You're going to be late for school again. I'm not writing a note this time..."

Ramie finds herself back in time on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, with a second chance to see the people she's lost and change the choices she regrets. How did she get back here? Has she gone off the deep end? Has she really gone back in time? Above all, she'll have to answer the question that no one else can: What it is that she really wants from the past, and for her future? 


I was drawn to the story because Ramie's relationship with her Dad reminded me of my own father. We were very close too. He'd be the one I would go to for advice on things. Well most things. And I'd talk to him about my day, my friends or we'd watch a movie or two at home too while I ask him what he thinks the future has in store for me. Her longing for her Dad - hit close to home.

If I went back in time, I probably would also ask my Dad to get his health checked, you know? Because I would want him around longer.

"What if?" is the question that 37 year old Ramie kept asking herself. Me personally? I don't have those What if questions. It's not a thought I wonder about for too long. I might on an occasion or two, have asked myself "What if" but I know not to dwell because I know there's no point to it. I can't turn back time. Plus I have said this before but I will say it again, I don't think I'll change a thing in my past. They all happened for a reason and they taught me lessons and gave me memories that makes me who I am now.

But okay let's indulge in that "What if" for fun. What if I could turn back time? What would I change? My non-existent fashion sense in high school would be one. And my almost non-existent beauty routine. Ha! Ha! I would tell myself to pick up a mirror and a comb plus powder. Maybe swipe on some gloss.

What if I'd told my high school crush all the things I liked about him when he had our classmate and friend ask me out loud that question. I probably turned beet red when his friend asked me that right in front of him. Maybe if I was brave enough to tell him, who knows? Maybe I wouldn't have spent the 4 years of my life in high school pining for him. Maybe if I told him instead of denying I liked him (as though it wasn't obvious) and didn't walk away, who knows?😅 

What if I chose to be an Assumptionista instead of a Paulinian in College? I may have remained sheltered considering the school is near my house. I wouldn't have to commute far. I might have been on a different career path too with a different set of friends. Who knows?

What if I actually went ahead with breaking up with my then-boyfriend instead of taking it back, taking him back when he asked me to? I might have saved myself from a big heart break down the line.

 What if I didn't confront C at the gym and just gave him his space instead of pushing him to hear me out? Would we still be talking these days? Maybe.

If I had made a different choice then in any one aspect of my life, it'll be a different reality for me right now. Is it happy? Better? Maybe. Maybe not. I'm sure this is already common knowledge even without reading the book because there are a lot of movies that also talked about time traveling and how every action sets off a reaction, a ripple effect to your present and future. In short, there are different versions of reality. But like I said, I have no regrets about the choices I made in my life.

Certain excerpts from the book that I loved:

"But it absolutely makes sense to check in and make sure at most times you're more happy than sad."

"We're all here to learn something. Sometimes we learn it in the worse possible way in order to show ourselves that we can live through hell and still come out on the other side."


I absolutely loved the end part of this book, Ramie realizing that there's time. There is always time. I feel like it's also my lesson to learn, you know? Especially when it comes to love and relationships. Considering I'm already in my thirties and I'm single. With people around me saying I'm not getting any younger. I should be starting a family now. And with friends of mine either married, already starting a family or growing family, engaged or just in a relationship, I wonder where he is? Where is the guy for me? Rushing again. Like my teenage self who couldn't wait to experience her first romantic relationship. I need to trust in the process. To just enjoy my journey.

This is such a good story. One that would make you reflect on your own life and the choices you made back then. There's a question in the book, posed upon Ramie by her Dad which I leave here for you to reflect on as well. How do you want to feel in 5 years? 


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