The Undoing of Arlo Knott, Heather Child

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If waves of regret could have washed me so far backwards, they would have done so already 

Arlo Knott discovers he can rewind time – just by a minute or two – enough to undo any mistake, say the right thing or impress his friends with his uncanny predictions. But second chances aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. As wonderful as his new life is, a mistake in Arlo’s traumatic childhood still haunts him and the temptation to undo, undo and keep undoing is too much to resist.

* * * *
4 / 5

Enthralling and fascinating, unsettling and haunting, The Undoing of Arlo Knott is definitely an interesting read. The story of Arlo Knott bobs and weaves, ducks and dodges along the entire timeline of his life and what a life it is. There is something bleak and disturbing and warped about Arlo, and it makes for such an engaging read.

I was a magician all right, twenty-four hours a day

When Arlo is thirteen his mother falls into a coma, and it’s partially his fault. When his older sister Erin makes the decision to turn off the life support, Arlo learns that he can turn back the clock. At first it is just for a few seconds, enough to undo a sentence or a touch. Arlo uses this to flirt, to joke, to take out his anger, all without consequence. He moves in with his nan. He goes to university, and develops his skill, ticking back time minutes at a time as he undoes first introductions and exams and lottery numbers.

Then he’s an aimless young adult in love with a woman, Sabra, whose career he has ruined. Yet if he takes back what he did, he takes back their first meeting, their flirtation. So he doesn’t. Arlo becomes a performer, a magician, a brooder. His face is young but his mind is older, as his mind tries to work through remembering things that other people don’t, and the recklessness he lends others as everything goes right around him.

Was it Sabra I loved, or the way she was happy to toy with the world, as I did?

Arlo is a unique character. It’s a fascinating premise and it’s used to write a book which is essentially an extended character study. The reader is just along for the ride of Arlo’s life. And there is something so bleak and unsettling and hollow about his life. Child perfectly balances on that line between making Arlo’s skill a gift and a curse, so that he is both likeable and dislikable, blessed and pitiable in equal turns.

This book is weird and thought-provoking and multifaceted, and it is definitely worth your time.

My thanks to Netgalley, the publisher, and the author for an ARC of The Undoing of Arlo Knott. 

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