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Parallel Lives by Richard Seltzer

55,018 words

Literary Fiction, with touches of magic realism, time travel, and alternate history


The story, which begins in an assisted-living facility in New Hampshire, leads to 18th century Boston and London, where there may be unfinished business that residents, through mirror selves, must take care of.


As Abe, Mercy. and their friends come under the influence of forces they don't understand, they adopt antique attire, get drunk on two-hundred-year-old wine, and become experts in the lives of their other selves. As Abe tells Mercy, "My dear, we have been granted not just one, but two lives. And in both it appears that we are fated to be together. What could go wrong?"



Mercy is Mercy Otis Warren, playwright and historian from Massachusetts at the time of the American Revolution.

Jemmie is Mercy's brother James Otis, one of the early leaders the resistance against England, coining slogan "no taxation without representation."

Abe is Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne, the general who at Saratoga lost the battle that led to England losing the war and who then became one of the most popular playwrights on the London stage.

Cat is Catharine Macaulay, the first English woman historian, a fiercely independent lady who at the age of 47 scandalously married a 21-year-old-man

Dick is Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the 18th century playwright.


To explain what is happening, Dick believes that "each of us is all of us"; and Cat, a radical believer in free will and democratic government, comes to believe in the "nudge of fate" -- that instead of history consisting of a random set of events that could have turned out very differently, an unknown guiding force pushes us toward what must be, while preserving our illusion of free choice.


After dreams of what their other selves did and could have done, Mercy and Abe discover a tunnel in the basement that leads to other places and other times, where they could accidentally or deliberately change the course of history, where despite the cataclysmic repercussions Mercy feels driven to save her brother.


Comparables --

The Magus by John Fowles

The Heavens by Sandra Newman

A God in Ruins and Life After Life by Kate Atkinson


Author Bio --


My published works include:

The Name of Hero, historical novel (Houghton Mifflin)

Ethiopia Through Russian Eyes, translation from the Russian (Red Sea Press)  "...the most important book on the history of eastern Africa to have been published for a century...."   Old Africa

The Lizard of Oz satiric fantasy, "An intriguing and very entertaining little novel" Library Journal

The AltaVista Search Revolution, the first consumer book about search engines (McGraw-Hill) "indispensable" Library Journal, Winner of the Distinguished Technical Communication Award, the highest award given by the Society for Technical Communication Publications.  

Web Business Bootcamp (Wiley)

complete list at


Now a publisher of 3000 public domain electronic books, I worked for DEC, the minicomputer company, for 19 years, as writer, marketing consultant, and "Internet Evangelist." I graduated from Yale, with a major in English, and earned an MA from the U. of Mass. at Amherst in Comparative Literature (French, Russian, and German). At Yale, I had creative writing courses with Robert Penn Warren and Joseph Heller.


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