Next Stop: Nina by Robin Raven

8 Sep 2015 by

A semi-surreal observance of the tragic life of Nina Newman. Can abject despair and self-disdain ever turn into happiness?

Next Stop Nina Book CoverSynopsis

Emotionally scarred and lonely, Nina Newman makes a decision to end her life.  Beaten by her husband, emotionally and physically abused by her father, and a survivor of incredible tragedy, at thirty-seven years old, Nina doesn’t see a point in existing anymore. For some people, she thinks, it doesn’t get any better than this. Stalling in a hotel room, she sees something that gives her hope and decides she can make it just one more night. She falls asleep and wakes up in an echo of the past, trapped in her own ten-year-old body. Living it all again, she has to decide whether or not to follow her original life’s arc, or try for more. A novel of self-discovery, Next Stop: Nina gives Nina the chance to learn more about life and herself through each subsequent echo.

Connection [My Thoughts]

While I was paging through Next Stop: Nina (figuratively, since I was reading it on my Kindle), there were several points where I completely related with the main character. As an overweight mother of four (it’s true!), I struggle with matching the identity of the younger girl who wore size 4 jeans with the woman staring back at me in the mirror with size 12-14 hips. The following passage resonated (pg. 6-7):

I wish that my every impulse wasn’t to despise how I look. I think of other large women as absolutely beautiful, yet I cannot allow the same objective lens to fall upon me. I can’t accept myself today, and I have no vested interest in coping with the truth.

The other connection I made with the novel, which has been bugging me insistently ever since, is to Project Semicolon. When I was younger, I struggled with discovering my purpose and finding something to like about myself. I often thought about ending my story – sometimes daily. However, I always decided I could handle just one more day. Now, ten years later, I’m grateful that I didn’t give up.

suicidepreventionlifeline.org

The Nitty Gritty [Review]

Next Stop: Nina skims the surface of Nina Newman’s life (and consequent repeated lives) in a disjointed manner. The reader follows along as Nina’s mind jumps from place to place – both literally as she travels through time and figuratively as the character-driven story follows her mental leaps in topic. Robin Raven has a matter-of-fact writing style which is somewhat staccato at times. The chapters are very short, which lends to the stream-of-consciousness atmosphere wherein we discover Nina through snippets of her experiences.

The time travel aspects are never fully understood by Nina or explained and require willing suspension of disbelief. This certainly is not a science fiction sort of novel as the time travel is merely used as a vehicle to explain Nina’s change over time. (If you didn’t get a smile at the usage of the word vehicle, please reread the sentence.) This is what originally drew me to the novel since I’m a huge speculative fiction fan, but it was a pleasant novel nonetheless, so I didn’t mind too much. Simultaneously, however, I feel that the novel would have been more in my interests if it had a stronger base for the time travel elements. In addition, chapter 52 with the big reveal was confusing and didn’t really explain anything. Her continual echoes after that also didn’t make sense to me.

In this idea originated the plan of the ‘Lyrical Ballads’; in which it was agreed, that my endeavours should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic, yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith. —Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Nina feels a bit like an author surrogate for Robin at times, because Robin’s bio mentions effective altruism and veganism, and Nina mentions both enough times for the reader to notice. Nina is also passionate about donating blood, so all three topics are brought up often in the story.

shatters mini excerpt

The romance is light and sweet. Nina is in love with an artist who creates a beautiful oil painting on canvas of an autumn wedding; she first sees the painting at nine years old. Through her echoes, she then comes into contact with the artist time and again (purposeful use of the cliche!) and has a variety of relationships with him. It is, again, a surface-level look at their relationship with very little complexity. Even their fights are puzzling without much explanation, but that fits the overall effervescent tone of the novel.

When I was about three-fourths of the way through, I started to get very interested in what was going to happen to Nina. I would have loved to know more about the final version of Nina and that Nina’s life. Unfortunately, the novel ended very abruptly after that. Despite that criticism, the ending – as I imagine it – was delightful and in accordance with the rest of the novel’s premise. The reader may enjoy the last monologue by Nina; I know I identified with it.

The Takeaway

If the time travel aspect of the novel and the last echo of Nina’s life had been more developed, this would have easily been a four or five star novel for me. Someone who really enjoys women’s fiction will probably enjoy this book more. Nonetheless, it was a pleasant read well-suited for a bubble bath and glass of Zinfandel.

Information

Next Stop: Nina

by Robin Raven

Publisher: Batham Press
Published July 18, 2015 Pages: 243
Review Source: free review copy from Robin Raven Review Format: e-book
ISBN: 9780692406298 Finished on September 5, 2015

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