Everything changes in a single moment for Dawn Edelstein. She’s on a plane when the flight attendant makes an announcement: Prepare for a crash landing. She braces herself as thoughts flash through her mind. The shocking thing is, the thoughts are not of her husband but of a man she last saw fifteen years ago: Wyatt Armstrong.
Dawn, miraculously, survives the crash, but so do all the doubts that have suddenly been raised. She has led a good life. Back in Boston, there is her husband, Brian, their beloved daughter, and her work as a death doula, in which she helps ease the transition between life and death for her clients.
But somewhere in Egypt is Wyatt Armstrong, who works as an archaeologist unearthing ancient burial sites, a career Dawn once studied for but was forced to abandon when life suddenly intervened. And now, when it seems that fate is offering her second chances, she is not as sure of the choice she once made.
After the crash landing, the airline ensures that the survivors are seen by a doctor, then offers transportation to wherever they want to go. The obvious destination is to fly home, but she could take another path: return to the archaeological site she left years before, reconnect with Wyatt and their unresolved history, and maybe even complete her research on The Book of Two Ways—the first known map of the afterlife.
As the story unfolds, Dawn’s two possible futures unspool side by side, as do the secrets and doubts long buried with them. Dawn must confront the questions she’s never truly asked: What does a life well lived look like? When we leave this earth, what do we leave behind? Do we make choices . . . or do our choices make us? And who would you be if you hadn’t turned out to be the person you are right now?
Immediately we are thrust into the past for Dawn Edelstein, in The Book of Two Ways. She returns to the past as she revisits the Egyptian site where she first felt the passion of studying burial sites with Wyatt Armstrong. Back in Boston, her husband Brian waits, not understanding what has happened. And her daughter Meret is struggling.
I could relate to the need to explore unfinished journeys, and even the road not taken. But is Dawn risking her present life for one that might have been?
The story flips between the past and the present, and I soon found myself not enjoying the journey into the past and wishing Dawn would stay focused on what she has in the here and now. Like this moment she experiences with a client who is dying: “Her portrait of death lives in shadows. It’s midnight blue and dusky violet and violent black, but if you stare at it hard enough, you can make out two faint profiles, a breath apart, unable to complete that kiss for eternity.”
But in parallel universes, we watch the characters flash back and forth, and the destinies that unfold are fascinating. We are kept on tenterhooks, wondering what will finally happen for them. While I often found myself preferring parts of the story more than others, in the end I couldn’t stop pushing through to the ultimate answers that might take the characters to places they should be.
A book that held me captive until the end, I soon forgot about the parts I didn’t like much…and concluded that the work was unforgettable and had earned 4.5 stars.