9 Moving Books About Second Chances

By Stephanie Brown
A colorful collection of five books from various genres displayed against a two-tone background, featuring award seals and bestseller labels.

It’s never too late when it comes to these hopeful, emotional reads.

We loved the following books about second chances and know that you will too — after all, if there’s one thing we all share, it’s a desire to fix the mistakes of the past. Some of the celebrated novels below explore second chances through speculative fiction techniques like time travel and alternate timelines. Others offer deeply human narratives about righting wrongs, mending friendships, and finding the strength to pick yourself up and begin again. Each is sure to entertain and uplift in equal measure.

A book cover with a dark blue background featuring colorful floral illustrations with the title "the connellys of county down" by tracey lange prominently displayed in white and light purple lettering.

The Connellys of County Down

By Tracey Lange

Tracey Lange is the bestselling author of We Are the Brennans. This summer she returns with a new novel that offers a “compassionate look at family dynamics and a reminder that it’s never too late to heal” (Kirkus). After serving a year and a half in prison on drug charges, 30-year-old Tara Connelly is determined to get her life back on track. But fresh starts are easier said than done, especially when you have no job and little money, so Tara moves in with her siblings in search of support. However, with a single-parent brother grappling with medical issues and a sister struggling to keep her composure, Tara has her hands full. As she works to hold her frayed family together and make her second chance a reality, she also embarks on an unexpected romance while reckoning with some long-held family secrets. A heartfelt tale about family drama, fierce loyalty, and finding your way back to yourself, The Connellys of County Down is a moving read.

Cover of 'maybe in another life,' a novel by taylor jenkins reid, with a sky-blue backdrop and silhouettes of palm trees.

Maybe in Another Life

By Taylor Jenkins Reid

Hannah Martin is 29 and doesn’t know what to do with her life. Then, on an otherwise unremarkable night out, she must make a seemingly simple choice: head back home with her friend and roommate, Gabby, or stay out a bit longer with Ethan, her old high school boyfriend. Luckily for the reader, we get to see how both decisions play out across the years. Each choice splits Maybe in Another Life into two parallel versions, producing a dual-timeline portrait of Hannah’s life that wrestles with questions of fate, soul mates, and true love.

Cover of matt haig's novel 'the midnight library,' a new york times bestseller, featuring a stylized assortment of book spines representing different lives, with a central orange circle highlighting the book's title and author.

The Midnight Library

By Matt Haig

In this beloved and bestselling feel-good book, Matt Haig delivers a “stunning contemporary story that explores the choices that make up a life, and the regrets that can stifle it” (Booklist, starred review). The Midnight Library introduces us to Nora, who’s come to believe that life is no longer worth living. Her mom has died. She just called off her engagement. She squandered a potential music career and is estranged from her brother. But when Nora tries to end things, she wakes up in an otherworldly library packed with an infinite number of books. Each book offers a different version of the life she could have lived had she made a different choice. As Nora pores over book after book, she grapples with big questions that we all face: about true love, the perfect career, and the ideal life path. Along the way, she ends up learning something far greater about the meaning of existence.

A playful and colorful book cover featuring abstract shapes and lines with the title "this time tomorrow" by emma straub, highlighted as a new york times bestseller.

This Time Tomorrow

By Emma Straub

In This Time Tomorrow, celebrated author Emma Straub puts a speculative fiction spin on second chances, this time involving time travel and a daughter trying to reconnect with her ailing dad. On her 40th birthday, Alice discovers that she can travel back and relive her 16th birthday simply by falling asleep near her old house. She can also change the present by making different choices in the past. And so Alice embarks on two quests — to figure out what decisions will lead to a happy life and to prevent her dad from getting sick. Sweet, funny, and contemplative, Straub’s national bestseller explores what we truly need to lead a fulfilling life. 

The image shows the cover of the book "all my rage" by sabaa tahir, which is adorned with a gold medallion indicating it is a "national book award winner." the cover features bold lettering with the title taking up most of the space, set against a warm-toned background.

All My Rage

By Sabaa Tahir

A powerful story about the importance of friendship and the trauma of losing it, Sabaa Tahir’s National Book Award–winning All My Rage follows childhood best friends Noor and Sal across the years. The pair connect because of their similar backgrounds: Both grew up in Pakistani families that were forced to leave home and start over in the U.S. after awful tragedies. Bonding over shared family trauma and experiences of racism and Islamophobia, the two become more like family than friends. But after a huge fight, they’re stuck navigating their increasingly difficult lives on their own. As Sal struggles to run his family’s motel in the wake of his mother’s illness and his father’s deepening alcoholism, Noor works for her abusive uncle while quietly planning to leave town for good. If the two friends hope to rekindle their bond, they must find a way toward forgiveness.

A striking book cover with a single red rose against a dark background for kate atkinson's novel "life after life," acclaimed as "entirely thrilling" by time and noted as a #1 national bestseller with a new york times best seller list badge for 2013.

Life After Life

By Kate Atkinson

In this acclaimed novel, Kate Atkinson takes the idea of second chances to dazzling new heights. Life After Life centers on the remarkable life of Ursula Todd. Every time Ursula dies, she starts back over at her birth in 1910. Against the backdrop of England’s tumultuous early 20th century, Ursula dies countless ways: drowning, contracting influenza, falling off a roof. And those are just in her childhood. With each iteration, Ursula faintly remembers her past life and changes course, ultimately spinning off alternative lives in all directions, including playing a key part in rewriting the history of World War II.

Book cover design featuring stylized waves in the backdrop with the title 'tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow' by gabrielle zevin, prominently displayed in bold letters.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

By Gabrielle Zevin

After suffering a terrible car accident, Sam finds comfort in the company of a new friend named Sadie and their shared love of video games. But when they have a fight, they stop speaking to each other and their short but intense friendship is over. Years later, a chance encounter at a Boston train station brings Sam and Sadie back together. They seize their second chance at connection and turn their shared passions into wildly successful careers in the video game industry, careers that test the bonds of their friendship all over again. A New York Times bestseller, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow is as much about the complexities of games as the complexities of friendship and the human heart. You’ll enjoy this beautifully told tale even if you aren’t a gamer.

A man stands with his back to the viewer, looking out into the distance, accompanied by a small cat at his feet—a peaceful moment captured on the cover of fredrik backman's bestselling novel 'a man called ove'.

A Man Called Ove

By Fredrik Backman

Fredrik Backman enchanted readers the world over with A Man Called Ove, the author’s internationally bestselling debut about a neighborhood curmudgeon transformed by the power of love. After losing his life partner, Ove becomes a grumpy widower who delights in critiquing others and exasperating his neighbors. Reluctantly, however, Ove finds a second chance at enjoying life through his blossoming relationship with the family who move in next door. You’ll adore this heartwarming tale about love, loss, and rekindling wonder in the wake of tragedy.

The cover of the national bestseller "americanah" by chimamanda ngozi adichie, featuring a distinctive twisted rope design encircling the title.

Americanah

By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

We conclude our list with Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “epic love story…[that] pulls no punches with regard to race, class, and the high-risk, heart-tearing struggle for belonging in a fractured world” (O, The Oprah Magazine). Nigerian high school students Ifemelu and her boyfriend Obinze love each other deeply, but they decide to part so they can figure out their futures. Ifemelu heads to the U.S. for school with the hope that they’ll eventually reunite. Obinze winds up leaving Nigeria for London, and both must deal with starting over, navigating the hardships of the immigrant experience, and reckoning with the ingrained racism of their respective countries. While each finds some measure of success, ultimately they long for home and for each other. But after so many years apart, will they ever find their way back?

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