Three Lives to Live, by Anne Lindbergh, for Timeslip Tuesday

Three Lives to Live, by Anne Lindbergh (Little Brown, 1992, middle grade)

Garet's life was not extraordinary until the day Daisy fell out of the laundry chute and became her twin sister. Garet's grandma, known as Gratkins, seems to know a lot about the new arrival, and goes out of her way to make her welcome and buy her luxuries, but she's not sharing what she knows with Garet. Neither, at first, is Daisy. So Garet is understandably resentful.

But when Garet finds out that Daisy has fallen through from the past, torn from her family and flung into a strange new world, and that there is a very good reason (I'm not saying what) for Gratkins to be fond of her, she continues to show little compassion...making her a rather unsympathetic narrator. In fact, I wanted at various points to shake all the main characters--Gratkins (for not telling Garet what was up with Daisy), Daisy (for being manipulative and also for being unnecessarily secretive), and Garet (for being unsympathetic to Daisy when she does find out, and for being prickly and difficult).

Yet I still enjoyed this book, in a mild sort of way. In its favor was a really truly interesting time-travel twist, the sort that you find yourself thinking about lots, and forcing family members to talk about with you (this twist is a tremendous spoiler, so I've put it at the end). I actually guessed what the twist was (so it can't have been very subtle), but still enjoyed it.

I also liked the way the story is told. The framing device is an autobiography that Garet is writing for English class, and not only does she struggle to find her own authorial voice, she becomes fiercely embattled in a struggle to keep her account of events as they happened part of the story--her English teacher has trouble accepting laundry-chute-enabled time travel as fact, and thinks Garet is deeply troubled.

Publishers Weekly hated the book when it first came out:

"The inherent fascination of time travel cannot compensate for the novel's lack of any real adventure and its irksome, self-satisfied prose. The characters seem to be little more than repositories for cliched tics, and the narration, unfortunately, keeps the reader at arm's length."

I do not think this is fair at all! We all find different things irksome, but I don't think the prose was "self-satisfied," and I'd love to know what the author of that long-ago review meant by that phrase! And I wasn't kept at arm's length (maybe the narration liked me better than it did that reviewer).

Judging from the comments on Amazon, this seems to be one of those books that strikes the impressionable child as mind-blowingly Wonderful. I myself was happy to read it, and encourage others to pick it up if they come across it, but I don't think it needs to be quickly and anxiously searched for. Unless, of course, you are looking for a book for the impressionable 9 or 10 year old girl.


And it's a really major spoiler. So stop reading now if there's any chance you'll want to read the book.

The laundry chute is magic, sending whoever falls into it fifty years into the future (while leaving their doppelganger behind in the past). Not only is Daisy an adolescent Gratkins, but Garet herself (Garet being short for Margaret) came down the chute as a two year-old Gratkins! So one starts pondering nature over nurture along with characters, who all feel quite different from each other, but more interesting still, one contemplates how one would raise one's own two-year old, or twelve-year old, self....I, personally, would very much like to take crack at little me and see if I could do better than my own parents did.


  1. I would have had to keep my own children away from the laundry chute had they known about this book. Someone would have gotten stuck for sure!

  2. Or they would have had complexes about not being brave enough to try....

  3. I can confirm that Anne Lindbergh's books (not this one specifically, but others) are dead magical if you read them at age nine or ten. They haven't held up terribly well as I passed into adulthood, but I still return to Travel Far, Pay No Fare. The characters in it can go into books. When I was a kid I thought there was no more marvelous book in the entire world. (Nick of Time, not as awesome to me as a kid, has held up rather better.)

  4. This is my first of her books, Jenny; I'll look for the two you mention! Thanks.

  5. I wish my children read this amazing novel. It is so much true to our life and so vividly depicts the world around, that i couldn't help admiring it.

  6. This is a good book for children!!! I will definetly give my kids to read it. There are so much true there that can be a good experience for them. I do love it!!!

  7. Im love this book, im always this book when im young , hope i can read it again with the Mobile spy app. Tks for share it :)

  8. This is my first of her books, I'll look for the two. Thanks.


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