Imagine it is New Year’s Eve, 1982. Oona is 18 years old and will be 19 at midnight as the year changes to 1983. She has her whole life ahead of her, including the type of life altering “big decisions” that face everyone at that age. But, when Oona opens her eyes after the clock strikes 12:00 midnight, she’s not 19 (at least on the outside) but 51. The year is not 1983 but 2015, and she’s in a completely different location. And so begins Oona’s less than linear life in Margarita Montimore’s Oona Out of Order.
In her debut novel, Margarita Montimore explores not only how dependent we are on time, but also how time restrains us and influences our decisions (large and small). She emphasizes the adage that “youth is wasted on the young,” provides the fantasy of an older person experiencing their body at a younger age, and explores the need for older people to maintain some of the liberty that is generally lost from their youth.
What will draw readers into the journey Montimore is offering are her characters. They are nicely drawn and completely relatable. In addition to Oona, there are two semi-constant characters who appear throughout the book and understand what is happening to her. The first is Oona’s mother, Madeleine. Montimore uses Madeleine to underscore the potentially primal and singular connection that can exist between parents and children. Madeleine’s knowledge of what is happening to her daughter repeatedly places her in the “no-win scenario” of wishing to shield her child from the pain she knows is coming, but, in most cases, can do nothing to prevent from occurring. The two agree early in Oona’s life that it is best for each to withhold from the other what they know about the future, and the year that Oona will be living in. But the temptation for both is at times so strong to break that agreement in the attempt to avoid unwanted events. The other constant character in the book is Oona’s Personal Assistant, Kenzie, whose complicated relationship with Oona is revealed as the book progresses. Montimore utilizes the remaining characters in the novel to explore relationships and how we create, sabotage, damage and repair them whether it is over the course of a year, or a lifetime.
Above all, Montimore seems to stress the necessity to do the best that we have with the life that we’re given, even when it turns out that that life isn’t “normal” by most standards and that, in those deviations from the norm, there are always benefits to offset the perceived losses.
Here is the interview with author, Margaret Montimore