If Only is the debut fiction novel from Author and creative Melanie Murphy and centers around the premise of how different life could have gone when you make the decision to go left instead of right and the implications which can come from that.
Set in London, If Only, follows the lovely Erin who is in her late twenties and questioning her decisions in life. As she hits her 30th birthday, she visits her Granny back in Ireland and receives the birthday present which may just hold the answers she is seeking.
The present in question is an heirloom. A necklace past down through generations to all the females within Erin’s family once they hit 30. The twist is that this is no ordinary necklace, it allows the Erin to visit parallel versions of her life and see what could have happened if only she made a different decision. For instance, we get to see what happened If only Erin took the internship at a media company she turned down.
The aspect of her life which resonated with me the most in her career. She moved to London (as did I) with the aim to pursue a writing career and you see first hand the struggles she faces. We discover she is working in a cafe to pay the bills and struggling to make ends meet while trying to go after her dreams. As someone a couple of years younger than Erin who feels like she should be further ahead in her career than she is at this moment in time, this truly resonated with me.
I also really adored the true and honest way Melanie portrays relationships within the book. When we meet Erin, she has just come out of a relationship and you see her battle herself, the way many women do, questioning if she made the right decision. You see the importance of having a good support system around you and how your friends can become your family. The relationship between Erin and her Grandmother is beautiful and shows the importance of intergenerational relationships, something I think can often be overlooked, especially in literature.
Melanie does a great job of showing the nuances that come with having different friends and navigating friendships in your twenties. On one hand, you have her friendship with Reid, which is beautiful, complex and one that is ultimately wholesome and healthy. You also see the entanglement that can come from female friendships as you can see between Laura and Erin.
Love is a thread throughout the book but rather being the main focal point of the book is more of an anchor and weaves into the other elements of the story and relationships. Without spoiling too much, through Erin’s journey to find love we find being honest with yourself and your feelings is crucial when seeking a partner to spend with and the importance of friendship and having their unconditional support is at the core of any romantic relationship. You also see how toxic certain relationships be, showing readers that no matter how hard it may be ultimately, removing yourself from them, no matter how addicting or comforting they maybe are exactly what you need to move forward in your life.
Melanie is an incredible writer who really explores character development which truly makes the story all that more personal and relatable regardless of who you are. (Trust me, you will want to be walking the gardens with Erin, go with her to Ireland and explore Winter Wonderland with her and Finn). If Only, is a perfect depiction of what it is like for many of us in our late twenties and opens up discussions on topics which we rarely touch upon such as mental health and sexuality in an inclusive non-derogatory manner.