If you’re the kind of reader who particularly enjoys the idea of stories intersecting and connecting, this one’s for you. If you would have enjoyed Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge just as much if the stories had appeared all jumbled. And, if you loved the film Sliding Doors and the concept behind Bandersnatch.

Because Leona Theis begins with Sylvie and spirals outwards, affording readers line-of-sight on the key figures in Sylvie’s life as key events and decisions are highlighted, so that the stories that follow might move down different forks in the road from those points. And, even further down the road, the original forks might be more or less identifiable, as subtle slips or flipped switches.

Readers need to be consistently engaged to recognize the delicate crafting at work here. Whereas Olive Kitteridge, for instance, moves on a single timeline but shifts points-of-view; If Sylvie Had Nine Lives maintains Sylvie’s perspective but tumbles into multiple timelines (with the other characters rising or falling in importance, depending on the possible outcomes). It’s not that it’s complicated; it’s that the joy resides in the discrepancies, the possibilities—if you’re not paying attention, you might miss something amazing. (Which is kinda the whole point.)

Here’s how it works—without mentioning any relationships, even though those possibilities are the most fun to trace. In more than one story, Sylvie works in the basement of the campus library. In the second story, set in 1974, she details the process of binding a year’s worth of journals. In some stories, this job appears to have been a stepping stone into a career; in still others, it appears in the background, a between-things job that barely registers years later. (I want to tell you all the things. But I won’t.)

That’s how it works mechanically. But beyond the mechanism, there are many supporting details. Regardless of how that early work experience plays out in Sylvie futures, the way that Theis details the process of binding is significant. Because ‘binding’ is ‘connecting’, right? Also, along the way, Theis gently nudges us into thinking about how the past and present relate in more immediate ways, like the “whiff of last night’s popcorn”, for instance. The stories would be enjoyable without recognizing these flourishes, but they do bring an extra layer of satisfaction to the discovery process. It builds trust in her storytelling, which is important because that remains consistent even while so much changes in these scenarios.

None of this feels mystical; Sylvie’s experiences are rooted in the quotidian. The timeslips are described in highly relatable ways: “the single thing you wanted to change but couldn’t”, “one of those moments that would send a life sideways”, and “those other lives you’ll never, ever know”. (There are a couple of doozies, but I don’t want to spoil those. Anyway, they’re even more enjoyable in the context of their specific stories.) And it feels realistic—I’m not going to get spoilery, but as with life, there’s pain and pleasure both.

Readers are also regularly reminded of the importance of perspective. Not only in the obvious ways, like how differently things can go, depending on whether you climb down into a basement window or climb up and out of a basement window. (Basement windows matter.) But also how differently life can look depending on your physical placement; at one point, for example, Sylvie is renting a basement apartment in a bungalow and she learns to recognize her friends by their lower legs. In another story, a character’s vision is compromised and requires a lens to bend the light in order to see straight ahead. At any point in this collection, readers can pause and look both backwards and forwards (and around) to see how Sylvie’s reality has transformed.

Beyond Sylvie’s experiences, the pop culture references quickly situate readers: Labatt’s Blue, Macleans, “The Partridge Family”, “I Dream of Jeannie”, “Mary Tyler Moore”, “Family Ties”, one’s first remote control, one’s first push-up bra, lawnchairs with plastic webbing, rewinding videos, Drugstore Cowboy and Walkmans. Music is especially important (there’s probably a playlist somewhere): from “Proud Mary” and Glen Campbell, to Led Zeppelin and Highway 61 Revisited.

Leona Theis’ If Sylvie Had Nine Lives reminds me of Bonnie Burnard and Louise Erdrich, Bronwen Wallace and Gloria Naylor. A prism of possibilities: a joy to read.