I picked up Lionel Shriver's The Post-Birthday World in the final days of 2007. Until then, my favorite 2007 books were The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. While those two books were fantastic, Shriver's book was by far the best 2007 book I read this year. It made the best of 2007 lists for a few people but, really, I haven't heard much hype about this book. One magazine that had it at #1 was Entertainment Weekly so I was a bit skeptical that it would be a tad mass produced for my tastes. However, I found it to be a complicated and lovely work.
Readers are thrown into the life of Irina McGovern--a illustrator in a long-term (monogamous) relationship. McGovern finds herself tempted by a family friend at the beginning of the story. After chapter one, the book alternative between two stories. In one story, McGovern sticks with the functional, though dull, relationship of the past. In the second, she caves to temptation and deals with the consequences of her decision. Both narratives are compelling and beautifully told. The competing narratives allow readers to anguish alongside McGovern while she copes with choice, regret and love. The stories compliment themselves and Irina finds in one man what she lacks in the other.
The book is so wonderfully written that I was captivated right until the last word. Loved the concept. Loved the writing. Loved the ending.