This Shared Dream
by Kathleen Ann Goonan
Review by Harriet Klausner
Tor Books Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9780765313546
Date: 19 July 2011 List Price $25.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
At Georgetown University, Jill Dance knows she cannot talk with anyone, not her parents or siblings as to what happened when she was a seventeen years old. At times the confusion between time streams slips into her present as for instance her discussion with Dr. Kosovo about FDR's fifth term, the Russians not entering Berlin, and no JFK assassination as she recalls the other past. Jill's mother Bette vanished back in 1963; while her father Sam disappeared five years ago. She assumes both changed the time stream.
She has issues with her husband Elmore who demands she give up something like her doctoral studies or the bookstore so he can avoid taking care of their son Stevie. Jill no longer cares what her husband demands as she breaks into her childhood home, Halcyon House. Elmore has her committed to St. Elizabeth.
Jill's younger brother Brian runs a construction company. He is in Dallas working with a bureaucrat inspector who refuses to accept how much safer a material Tenasano is then when his father Sam wrote the building codes. He is married to Cindy and they have two children -- teenager Zoe and four-year-old Bitsy. Cindy calls him to tell her his older sister has been institutionalized.
Their youngest sister Megan is researching memory. Her husband Jim works out of the house, so he watches their five year old daughter, Abbie. Megan wonders what her parents hid from their three offspring. However, she will soon expand on her hypothesis to include what Jill hid from her and Brian.
The sequel to Kathleen Ann Goonan's award winning In War Times continues to ask the profound moral issues involved in changing the past to make a better future. In the first book, Sam and Bette altered the past, which led to better societies around the world.
Jill has done likewise and though the world has improved considerably, she knows some good people were adversely affected like friends in the previous time stream vanishing since they never were born. Jill's problem is she knows the other time stream for instance, the one in which JFK was assassinated. She can become confused between facts now and facts then. However, her personal issue is she suffers from remorse that she played God. This eats at her soul because she knows some nice people never existed in the altered world. With a nod to Ayn Rand, the novel asks whether it is acceptable to improve the lives of the vast majority at the cost of a few people.
The story line is character driven at a leisurely pace so that the cast and readers can explore the ethical issues raised by Ms. Goonan. This time Megan and two of the next generation children will become intimate with time changing, but this is primarily Jill's tale. Although reading In War Times first adds understanding of the sequel's prime ethical tenets, readers will enjoy this novel even if they didn't read the previous one.