Fantasy has never been a genre that I used to look forward to. However, parallel universes and time travel have intrigued me to no end. Hence What Could Have Been by Luke Melia is a book in the fantasy genre, amalgamated with suspense, that hooked me to it.
What Could Have Been tells a story of trauma, expectation, obsession, and loss, explored through five distinct parts spanning over three decades. Two strangers, Dale and Heather, meet by chance while on holiday in Greece. As their hands touch for a fraction of a second, they experience a day in an alternate future where they are married and have a family. When the day ends, they are pulled back to reality, weighed down with the memories of a lost lifetime. This vision causes their lives to intensely intertwine, impacting their decisions, relationships and identities. The two must navigate the complexities of what they mean to one another, as they struggle to rationalize an event nobody else could possibly understand and mourn a life that never existed.
Dale meets Suzanne and instantly gets connected with her. On a Holiday with Suzanne, Dale meets Heather and Lyndon, who are deeply in love with each other. On the brief trip, accidentally Dale and Heather’s fingers touch and they are taken to an alternative reality. They live the reality for thirty years in a few seconds in the current world. However, those thirty years of vision in the future change their present lives so as to change the future in the current reality as well. Everything changes, right from Dale and Heather’s feelings for each other to their relationship with their partners, friends, and family. Deeply pained by the tug of war between two worlds, Dale end up worrying What if they hadn’t boarded the boat, What if their fingers hadn’t touched, What if they didn’t get pulled into the future. What could have been…
The author has time and again proven that his craft is impeccable. But here the unprecedented plot, with such untoward incidents rattle the brains of the readers. Nonetheless, the author has managed to put everything in place and make sense for the readers to go about. The plot takes off at a supreme speed but it drops somewhere in the middle. With a complicated plot like this, the book could have been monotonous or indecipherable but the author has prioritized the characters and the emotions. When Dale and Heather live different lives the vision and the turmoil that they go through is beautifully depicted. One more round of developmental edits could have been done. Like Dale and Heather, it left me wondering What Could Have Been, had the book been holding a tighter plot. But the same has not taken away the reading experience for the readers.
The two realities are seamlessly merged and the readers are connected to the people in both. The relation between Anne and Dale is one that stands out in the whole book. How they care for each other while pulling each other’s legs and also how the rejection from one hurts the other which in turn changes everything for them is endearing and heartwrenching to read.
Overall the book, despite being a fantasy, is a touching one that pitched into the various realms in the matter of the heart.