Q, by Evan Mandery, 4th Estate, £16.99, 384 pages
How should you describe this quirky genre mash-up? A postmodern New York Jewish comedy-cum-love story, with time travel … It’s The Time Traveller’s Wife with matzo ball soup jokes, The Twilight Zone with additional material by Gary Shteyngart.
Q stands for Quentina Elizabeth Deverill, urban organic gardener and lover of the book’s narrator, a nebbish history professor who writes unreadable novels that imagine alternative lives of historical figures. They make an odd couple, but a happy one. Marriage awaits until the prof is visited by a future version of himself: to avert catastrophe he must break off the engagement.
Of course, meddling with the timeline can have unforeseen consequences. Evan Mandery gleefully runs with sci-fi convention, as more future selves arrive with contradictory advice about love and writing.
A readable and poignant exploration of the roads not taken, marred only by Mandery’s tendency to confuse smart for smartarse.