Revisiting Replay (Part 2)

This is the second post in a series of chapter by chapter commentaries on the novel Replay by Ken Grimwood.  To start at the beginning, check out Part 1.

Note: If you haven’t read Replay, the following may will contain spoilers.

Chapter Seven

  • Jeff starts his second replay in a state of shock that he’s lost both his daughter and his financial empire.  He seeks solace in his old college flame Judy Gordon, feeling that he dismissed her too quickly in both of his prior lives. This mirrors the way Timely Persuasion‘s narrator embraces the relationship with the cute little redheaded girl upon finding himself back in a “shocking” new life.
  • Judy is freaked out by his desire to drop out of school and spend his life gambling, so he reels it back a little this time around.  He forces himself to finish college (again) and earn an MBA, and he makes sure his investments keep them comfortably in the upper middle class but no higher.  At first this holding back bothers him, but he decides Judy is worth it and enjoys a more simple life this time around.
  • Once again Jeff dies on the same day in 1988 despite taking precautions and checking himself into the hospital for a week.  Upon returning to 1963, he isn’t happy.

Chapters Eight & Nine

  • Jeff — now essentially 93 years old — has tried to do the right thing and lost the two loves of his life plus his daughter in the process.  Not wanting to start from scratch again he makes the first bet, flies to Vegas to find Sharla, then jets off to Paris for several years of debauchery. This is probably my favorite moment for the pure realism of the decision.  As I often paraphrase Jeff’s thoughts when describing the book to others: “I lost everything again?  F- it.  Drugs and whores!”
  • Real life jazz musician Sidney Bechet makes a cameo at one of the seedy Paris clubs Jeff frequents, but the appearance is a little anachronistic.  In real life Bechet died in 1959, so he shouldn’t be around in 1963.  Either this is a mistake, or perhaps a subtle hint that other replayers may be out there making subtle changes to history – in this case extending the life of Bechet.
  • Previously I mentioned that Sharla seems somewhat similar to the cute little redheaded girl in Timely Persuasion.  I’m realizing now that Mireille (Sharla’s Parisian counterpart) also shares the same similarities — including the same red hair.
  • Sharla and Jeff board Pan Am Flight 843 from San Francisco to Hawaii, with Jeff not realizing the significant history of the flight. Grimwood’s name dropping of the plane’s real life crew was my inspiration for naming the members of bowling’s real life 900 club in an early draft of TP, though the scene ended up being cut due to my “no name” rule.  (I also like the way Grimwood extracts quotes from the linked article and scatters them throughout the plane scene to enhance the realism, which mirrors some of my Dylan and Cobain research.)

Chapters Ten, Eleven & Twelve

  • Jeff retreats into solitude on a farm in northern California where he lives alone for nearly a decade.  The thought of loving and losing again if the replays continue is just too much for him to take.  Then one day while in town on his semi-annual supply trip he sees a poster for a blockbuster movie called Starsea that he’s never heard of before. He tracks down Pamela Phillips, the producer of the mysterious film. She eventually reveals what he’s suspected all along – she’s a replayer too.
  • The two compare notes.  Pamela’s tale is similar to Jeff’s with two notable exceptions.  She starts replaying as a 14 year old living with her parents and thus doesn’t have the same freedoms he does as an 18 year old in college.  And she thinks their “mission” is to enlighten the world as to what is happening, which was the very reason she decided to make Starsea.  This is another section that feels like backstory but really serves to nicely set up what’s to come in the second half of the novel.
  • Eventually the pair start a relationship, excited to have found someone they can share their experiences with.  They philosophize on parallel universes and other time travel theory, wondering if their past replays continued on without them after they “died” in a section that echoes some of the musings of TPs narrator.
  • In the end they part ways to die alone, both brimming with excitement that they’ll be reunited in the next replay without losing everything they’ve built together in this life.  But things don’t always go the way you planned…

To be continued in Part 3

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