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Reviewed by Sandy Masia for Readers' Favorite
Kaley Kline works for the Tesla Museum in Colorado Springs as the director. Her job is to secure donations to help finish the museum; she also works to discover more artifacts to display in the museum. The crux of the plot is the discovery she makes of journal entries that seem to have been written by Tesla himself. These entries are about time travel. She begins to wonder if this is possible and if she could back and undo her mistakes.
The urge to go back and fix our mistakes, be successful, and fix our own lives is what drives the plot of this book. This is mainly in the foreground, but If She Had Stayed also explores the concept of growth, change, and the question of whether things can genuinely be mended without a cost. Diane Byington has put together a story that explores a strange phenomenon in a way that is intriguing and entertains the reader. She has put at the center of her story a woman who is easy to identify with, human and magnetic. And Kaley has a life, she is not the careerist, work above else archetype who is becoming more and more familiar in female-centered stories. She is motivated, flawed, grown, sensitive, intelligent; she works hard, but she has a way of making you feel like you could be her.
Diane Byington has navigated the difficulty of creating a motivated, successful female character who is not alienating. The marrying of sci-fi elements and the sensibilities of women's fiction has been a success, something I have never thought I would ever say. This gives If She Had Stayed a satisfying depth and interpersonal complexity. If She Had Stayed is entertaining, smart, and explorative.