Replay, by Ken Grimwood

The late Ken Grimwood (1944-2003) wrote just a handful of books, but this unique look at a life repeated won him the World Fantasy Award in 1988.

Set in 1988, Jeff Winston is a radio journalist who, while talking to his wife on the phone, suddenly drops dead of a heart attack at his desk. Almost instantly he wakes up in 1963, back in college at Emory. Once he’s adjusted to the change he decides this is an opportunity to make a better life, and in this life he wants to be wealthy. Selling everything and cashing out his savings, he and his best friend place bets on the Triple Crown and the 1963 World Series. They are millionaires and begin an investment company.

Some things in this life are the same, some are different, many are disappointing. His life carries on until 1988 when, at the same date and time, he drops dead of a heart attack. He wakes up again in 1963, but a few weeks later than the last replay.

His life loops through its repeats with a wide variety of changes. He even finds a woman who is also repeating at almost the same time cycle and they build a relationship that repeats, for good or bad, over several lifetimes. But for both of them the start date comes later and later, on different dates, while they die at nearly the same time.

In one life they decide to try to find scientists who might explain what’s happening. To get their attention they post an ad with several predictions over a year that all come true. But instead of interest by scientists they end up attracting the CIA, which begins a campaign to try to assassinate several world leaders and start revolutions which grossly distorts the timeline.

In each life they keep looking for a meaning or a cause without finding it. Marriage changes, attempts to save John F Kennedy from assassination, seclusion, or lives filled with drinking and sex never seem to change the pattern or give their lives a sense of meaning.

I won’t spoil the ending for you, but it’s an emotional book that leads the reader to share the frustrations and loves that the characters experience through lives that, near the end, last just seconds as the pattern continues to shrink.

Sadly Grimwood’s estate and publishers haven’t put his books in electronic formats. One novel,¬†Elise, now sells in hardback on Amazon starting at nearly $200.00 with no recent reprints. This book is the only one available at Audible, his book¬†Into the Deep is available from used dealers for more reasonable prices (under $5) in hardback and paperback.