The Mindtraveler

The Mindtraveler - Bonnie Rozanski

(I got a copy from NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

2.5 stars. Mixed feelings here.

On the one hand, it was permeated with a mellow, nostalgic atmosphere that I found pleasant. Not because of the events that unfolded in the past—some of those raised serious matters, like destroying a family, the glass ceiling, what it meant to be a woman in a place dominated by a patriarchal hierarchy. Because of how Margaret saw the past through the eyes of her younger self, with the hindsight of 60 years of life. As she was basically a silent passenger in the back of 35!Margaret's head, she could easily reflect and contemplate on that world she didn't remember accurately, and relive these memories in a way that would allow her to treasure them (seeing her parents again, for instance).

The ending was in part predictable, in part surprising (the twist with the student, all making sudden sense when you think about it), in part unavoidable, and I liked the latter aspect: I don't think I would've wanted a too well-wrapped ending, with nice ribbons around. The one the author chose to go with seemed to fit Margaret's character better than a "quieter" one.

A huge downside for me was the "silent passenger" side of the plot. For about 70-75% of the story, 60!Margaret can't do much more than lift a few fingers, which forces her in an extremely passive role (somewhat reminiscent, though, of what 35 had to go through: "be a nice girl and shut up when it comes to the important stuff"—the echo wasn't lost on me). It made up for a very awkward transition when she suddenly finds herself doing so much more, and as a result, the last chapters felt disconnected and in a hurry. It would've been more seamless if she had gradually started to do more, perhaps while her younger self was asleep/unaware of her "passenger".

The romance aspect I could've done without. It wasn't a breaker because it was romance, but it tended to obfuscate Margaret as a person who could make a life for herself—as in," who cares about academic recognition and a whole career, as long as I can have The Man?" (This clashed with Margaret's views on life, with her way of always deciding for herself, even if that mean making a bad decision, with her aims of becoming a researcher and getting tenure, etc.) This is why, I think, I'm glad the ending was what it was, and I can't help but wonder what she would do afterwards: enjoy the good or moan about the bad?

As for the characters themselves, mostly they weren't that enjoyable, unfortunately, either because they were greedy, sleazy or cowards, or just not impressive. This is humanity in a basket, I suppose, but a few more positive people to balance it out would've been nice. The mellow/nostalgic side of the novel would've made a stronger impression on me, too, if I had had a better feeling for them.

Not a bad novel, all in all, and the concepts and ideas it raised were definitely interesting. Unfortunately, in the end, it remained in the "just OK" category for me.