"Oona Out of Order" by Margarita Montimore is the "Good Morning America" April Book Club pick.
This unforgettable story begins on New Year’s Eve 1982. Oona Lockhart is 19 years old with her whole life in front of her -- but as the clock counts down to midnight, she faints and wakes up 32 years in the future, greeted by a friendly stranger in a house she's told is her own. She eventually learns that with each passing year, she’ll leap to another random age.
"I’m so grateful 'GMA' has chosen my novel 'Oona Out of Order' as its latest book club pick. I know the whole world feels like it's out of order right now, and social distancing is tough, but join 'GMA's' Book Club and we’ll all feel less isolated as we get lost in this uplifting story," Montimore said.
So many people on our staff couldn’t put this book down -- we think you’ll enjoy it a lot too.
"Oona Out of Order" is available now. Start reading now with an excerpt or audio excerpt below.
Oona came to with a long gasp, as if breaching the surface after being trapped underwater, left to drown.
A second earlier, she’d been surrounded by people and light and noise and warmth. Now she lay on a plush carpet in a dark room lit by a fireplace, silent but for the crackle of flames heating the drafty space.
How much champagne did I drink?
“Hey, are you okay?” asked an unfamiliar male voice.
The light, though meager, hurt her eyes; the room wavered before her. She blinked as if recovering from a camera flash. Focus.
A man kneeled over her, lean torso clad in a Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon T-shirt, the album cover’s prism and rainbow bedazzled with small rhinestones.
Oona propped herself up on one elbow, groggy. “Where’s Dale?”
That’s when it hit her: she wasn’t in Dale’s basement, or even his house.
Instead, she was in a room that could’ve been the library out of the board game Clue: high ceilings, dark wood paneling, leather wingback chairs, an antique globe, a bar cart laden with crystal bottles faceted like large jewels. Shelves of books dominated one wall, a rolling ladder offering access to the ones beyond arm’s reach. The sort of room where stylish academics could mingle, enjoying fine scotch and murmured conversation. A walnut desk faced a bay window, framed by velvet emerald curtains eclipsing the view beyond.
A thread of unease wove through Oona’s murky mind. “What is this place?” She gazed at a painting above the fireplace: an elegant woman doing her best Holly Golightly impression, pulled along by three large wolves on a leash. A small trail of blood dripped from the corner of the woman’s mouth. “Creepy, but pretty.”
“That’s exactly what you said when you bought it.”
Her brain fog thinned out. “Who are you?” She touched her throat. Her voice sounded different. Not overtly, but definitely pitched deeper by a few notes.
The man was in his early thirties, with dark, friendly eyes, high cheekbones, and dyed apricot hair styled like a miniature tidal wave. “I’m Kenzie. Your personal assistant—and friend. This place is your home. And your voice is different because—well, there’s a lot to explain. It’s gonna be weird and shocking. But I’m here to help.”
Oona shuddered and closed her eyes. This was too vivid to be a dream, but what a strange mirage. Surely she was still at the party with Dale and her friends in the mirrored basement. This new reality must be a false one, so better not to give in to the hallucination.
Except . . .
A roiling in her body made her double over, as if her inner organs were reassembling themselves. She swallowed hard to keep from being sick, breathed in, and—
The scream was jarring to Oona, even though it came out of her mouth. The last time she’d shrieked at this decibel, two men were dragging her father back onto a boat, his clothes hanging off him in tatters, blowing air into his waterlogged dysfunctional lungs. Eleven years old, staring into the purple face of Charles Lockhart, who stared back at nothing. That scream was one of alarm at seeing the familiar become foreign. This scream, shaded with decades of maturity, retained notes of that girl’s high-pitched plaintive wail.
“Whoa. Calm down. Please. You’re not in danger.”
But Oona got to her feet and scurried away from him. This action came with terrible new surprises, which distracted her from the stranger. Why was her body heavier, full of twinges, like she was wearing a rusty suit of armor? With no mirrors in the room, she couldn’t take in the full effect, so the horror was revealed by degrees. There were her hands, which couldn’t be hers. These hands had prominent veins, blue road maps extending from the knuckles, and a spatter of brown sunspots. She ran these hands over her body, now clad in a dark skirt and sweater, over the looser skin on her face and neck, over a midsection significantly thicker. None of it belonged to her: not the hands, the clothes, definitely not the body.
“Oona, don’t lose your sh*t. I need you to listen to me.” Kenzie stood.
Only there was no time to listen and Oona had her own needs. I have to get out of here. Except the stranger blocked her path to the door, so she dashed to the window. If they were on a ground floor she could—
A hand on her shoulder. She whirled around.
“Take it easy,” he said. “You know me.”
Shrinking back against the curtain, she crossed her arms. “No. No way. A minute ago, I was . . .” Her eyes drifted over to a framed photo on the desk and she nodded at it. “There.”
In the picture, Oona was back in her gold dress and leather jacket, shiny-eyed and grinning, surrounded by Dale, Corey, Wayne, and Pam. The camera’s flash reflected off the mirrored walls behind them.
Kenzie handed her the photo. “This is one of the things I’m supposed to show you.”
“I don’t . . .” She glanced from the photo to the man before her, back and forth. “I don’t remember posing for this.”
“I’m trying to explain.”
“Did you hurt them? Are you going to hurt me?” Oona pressed the frame to her chest, a useless makeshift shield.
His eyebrows shot up and he stepped back.
“Of course not. I’m here because you trust me. I’ll prove it. You told me about that New Year’s party a hundred times. Stuff it should be impossible for me to know.” Kenzie reached for the picture. “Relax, I’ll give it right back. Okay, so that’s your band’s badass bassist Wayne. ... That’s front man Dale, your boyfriend, who gave you a leather jacket just like his—adorbs—which you called your New York City armor.”
Oona’s mouth formed a stunned O as he tapped on Pam.
“That’s your childhood friend with the questionable haircut—I can’t remember her name, but that wedge will forever haunt me—who gave you shit about keeping the London thing hush-hush and tried to convince you to go the nerd route with her. Let’s see, what else? Oh, right before the countdown, Corey thought the big apple was a cherry, and I can’t even with that one.”
Though puzzled by some of his jargon, his placid tone mesmerized her. As he replayed events Oona had lived through moments before, she shivered and her knees softened. She staggered over to the desk, clutched it for support. “I need to sit.”
“Sh*t. Was that too much all at once?” Hastily setting down the picture, he held out an arm.
Oona didn’t take it, but allowed him to lead her to the wingback chairs.
“So . . .” His pants, made of a shimmery fabric more typical of a prom dress, rustled as he took a seat. “Now that we’re caught up on your recent past, how about I bring you up to speed on the right now?”
The ache in her knees made her grimace as she perched on the chair beside him. “Have I been kidnapped? Why do I look like this?” Her expression was fierce, but her voice wobbled.
“It’s all going to be okay. I’m here as your co-captain. We’re gonna navigate this mess together.”
“So I’m not a prisoner?”
“Of course not. I work for you. And we’re besties.”
“I don’t have any friends as old as you.”
Kenzie let out a startled laugh. “Hey, I’m only thirty, take it easy.”
“What the hell is happening?” Oona closed her eyes. This new world had already exhausted her. If she wasn’t dead, she must be in a nightmare. In which case, she could play along, wait it out until she woke up. A grim sigh and she opened her eyes, faced the stranger. “What’s your name again?”
“Why are you here? Why am I here?” Even if this was a bleak fantasy, some framework had to govern it.
His pose was serene except for one foot tapping out an erratic rhythm. “You’re . . . home. And you asked me to be here.”
A silent laugh shook her chest. This room, this person, all of it was like learning a new language. “This isn’t my home. And I don’t know you.”
“It’s gonna be a while before any of this makes sense—if it ever really does. But I’ll help you through it.” Kenzie put a hand on her arm, gave it a reassuring squeeze.
It wasn’t painful, but it was too much; she winced and jerked away. “Please don’t touch me.” Hurt flashed across his face as Oona got to her feet, backed away toward the door. “I have to go. I have people waiting for me. They’ll wonder where I am.” Inch by inch, she moved closer to the exit, hoping he wouldn’t lunge for her.
“Hang on a sec.” Kenzie rushed to the desk and returned with an envelope, handing it to her from a safe distance. “If you won’t let me explain, maybe it’ll be better coming from you. Still, there are things in here that’ll be hella bizarre.”
“Right, sorry. It means ‘very.’ My bad.”
“Sh*t, I did it again. My bad means my mistake. I use silly outdated slang when I get nervous.”
Curiosity interrupted her escape plan. “How outdated? I’ve never heard any of it before.”
“I don’t know, early 2000s?” Kenzie looked away from her widened eyes and fortified himself with a deep breath. “Here’s the thing . . . You’re no longer in 1982.”
“I know that. It’s 1983 now.”
“Not so much. It is New Year’s Day, but the year is 2015. So while you just turned nineteen on the inside—Happy Birthday, by the way—your body is the age it’s supposed to be in 2015. So chronologically you’re . . .”
He paused to calculate the number, but Oona beat him to it.
“Fifty-one?” No. No no no. HELLA no.
Excerpted from "Oona Out of Order" © 2020 by Margarita Montimore, with permission from Flatiron Books.