About The Other Year:
Can the entire course of a life be traced back to a single moment?
On a coveted two-week beach vacation, working mom Kate Baker’s nine-year-old daughter, Olivia, vanishes suddenly among the waves—a heart-dropping incident that threatens to uproot her entire reality. But in the next moment, Olivia resurfaces, joyously splashing.
What would I do if she didn’t come up? Kate wonders. How would I live without her?
In another set of circumstances that hold a different fate, Kate doesn’t have to wonder. Because in that “other” world, in the pulse-pounding seconds after Olivia goes under, she doesn’t come back up.
Told in parallel timelines, Kate begins to live two lives—one in which Olivia resurfaces and one in which she doesn’t. In the reality that follows her daughter’s death, she maneuvers through every mother’s worst nightmare, facing grief, rage, and the question of purpose in the aftermath of such profound loss. She endures, day by day, in a world without her daughter.
In her alternate timeline, while she explores a tremulous romance with her best friend, Jason, she finds herself grappling with the ex-husband who abandoned Kate and Olivia years prior. Even as Kate scrambles to hold her daughter close, Olivia pulls further away. The line between joy and loss seems to get thinner with each passing day.
Woven into a single story, both Kates discover a breathtaking fragility and resilience in their respective journeys. Bringing to light the drastic polarities dire circumstances often create, The Other Year explores truths about love, loss, and the sharp turns any life can take in the blink of an eye.
Now, as the water rushes over my feet, tugging and receding, I toe a sand dollar free, rinse it clean, and wag it in the air at Liv.
“Hold on to it for me, Mama!” She wipes the salt from her eyes and dives under again.
I pocket the treasure and check the time. It’s our yearly tradition to order pizza and salads for dinner on our first night of vacation, and the delivery is expected in less than an hour. I’m eager to get to the beach house, air it out, and unpack. I stalk the sand, watching Liv float, dive, and pivot.
Though this year has been tough, with demanding clients and huge projects that I must oversee, I’ve made a vow to be a more present parent. As an agricultural engineer, I’ve spent much of my career in the field, designing equipment, developing methods for land preparation, planting, and harvesting. With the promise of a promotion on the horizon, which would mean more computer work and less field work, I promised Liv I would be more available. I could sign up for PTA meetings. I could chaperone field trips and get to know the other moms at school. I could finally start the garden that Liv has been begging for but that hasn’t happened yet because I’m always so busy with work.
My being more available means a lot to Liv, and I want to make her happy. I know that childhood is fleeting; soon she will be in fourth grade. There will be boys and hormones and battles between friends. I’m already witnessing her childlike traits disappear, her identity as my little girl transforming into someone else. I don’t want time to pass us by.
She erupts from the waves every few seconds, her orange long-sleeved one-piece slightly too large. She is growing so fast and caught between sizes. Her crotch sags with collected sand, but surprisingly, she doesn’t complain. After a year of no vacations due to my intense work demands, she isn’t going to waste a second of this one.
When my phone dings in my pocket, I answer, one eye trained on Liv while scanning for shark fins, the other on the message. It’s from Michael, as if by thinking about him I’ve conjured his text.
We really need to talk, K. Call me when you can, por favor, mi amor.
I sigh. Mi amor. Though we are divorced, there is still so much love between us. I miss him. I miss us. I miss being a family. I text back a reply that we are on vacation and I will connect with him when we’re back in two weeks. Disgruntled, I return my focus to the ocean, back to Liv.
The waves climb and crash. Other children scream and play, tossing tiny footballs to each other or riding boogie boards on healthy waves. I search for Olivia’s unruly brown curls, her bright bathing suit, that oversized rainbow on the chest. My heart seizes, and I take a step toward the water.
One moment she is there—right there.
The next, she is gone.
About the Author:
Rea Frey is the award-winning, bestselling author of several nonfiction books and the suspense novels Not Her Daughter, Because You’re Mine, Until I Find You, and Secrets of Our House. Her latest women’s fiction novel, The Other Year, hits bookstores in August. Known as The Book Doula, Rea helps other writers birth their stories into the world.