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People have two personas, like bi-polar but not quite. They are supposed to go into a booth at a certain time, to 'change' into the other being. In each life, they have a different job and partner. However, two people chance upon one another in the second life, and recognise each other, and do what they can to be together in both lives, and punishable by death (I think).

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    You could improve this question by going through the checklists here and editing in any relevant info you can think to add.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 9, 2022 at 9:03
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    Was this a short story, a comic, a TV show?
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 9, 2022 at 9:03
  • @Valorum Probably not a TV show seeing as the OP put "Book" in the title. In fact it's a novella.
    – user14111
    Commented Jul 9, 2022 at 12:27
  • @user14111 - I meant novel, but you're not wrong :-)
    – Valorum
    Commented Jul 9, 2022 at 13:54
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    Is "Beyond Bedlam" the story you were looking for? If so, you can "accept" the answer by clicking on the check mark next to it.
    – user14111
    Commented Jul 10, 2022 at 1:16

1 Answer 1

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This is "Beyond Bedlam" a novella by Wyman Guin, available at Project Gutenberg. You may have read it in one of these compilations. It was also the answer to the old question Looking for a story set in a world where everyone has multiple personality.

ISFDB synopsis:

A story about a world where everyone is schizophrenic. Everyone has a side personality. Everyone is using compulsory drugs to separate and control the personalities. Apparently going to this kind of lifestyle prevents all wars and violence. The two personalities everyone has are called hypoalter and hyperalter and the prevalent personality is switched every five days.

They have booths for personality shifting:

Walking unhurriedly through the street crowds, Conrad entered a public shifting station and found an empty room. As he started to open the door, a girl came out of the adjoining booth and Conrad hastily averted his glance. She was still rearranging her hair. There were so many rude people nowadays who didn't seem to care at all about the etiquette of shifting, women particularly. They were always redoing their hair or makeup where a person couldn't help seeing them.

Conrad pressed his identifying wristband to the lock and entered the booth he had picked. The act automatically sent the time and his shift number to Medicorps Headquarters.

The main character is in an illicit love affair with his wife's alter ego (her "hypoalter') who is (unusually) married to his own alter ego:

The act reminded him of the shame which his wife Helen had felt when she learned, a few years ago, that her own hypoalter, Clara, and his hypoalter, Conrad, had obtained from the Medicorps a special release to marry. Such rare marriages in which the same bodies lived together on both halves of a shift were something to snicker about. They verged on the antisocial, but could be arranged if the batteries of Medicorps tests could be satisfied.

Perhaps it had been the very intensity of Helen's shame on learning of this marriage, the nauseous display of conformity so typical of his wife, that had first given Bill the idea of seeking out Clara, who had dared convention to make such a peculiar marriage. Over the years, Helen had continued blaming all their troubles on the fact that both egos of himself were living with, and intimate with, both egos of herself.

So Bill had started cutting down on his drugs, the curiosity having become an obsession. What was this other part of Helen like, this Clara who was unconventional enough to want to marry only Bill's own hypoalter, in spite of almost certain public shame?

He had first seen Clara's face when it formed on a visiophone, the first time he had forced Conrad to shift prematurely. It was softer than Helen's. The delicate contours were less purposefully set, gayer.

"Clara Manz?" Bill had sat there staring at the visiophone for several seconds, unable to continue. His great fear that she would immediately report him must have been naked on his face.

He had watched an impish suspicion grow in the tender curve of her lips and her oblique glance from the visiophone. She did not speak.

"Mrs. Manz," he finally said, "I would like to meet you in the park across from your home."

To this awkward opening he owed the first time he had heard Clara laugh. Her warm, clear laughter, teasing him, tumbled forth like a cloud of gay butterflies.

"Are you afraid to see me here at home because my husband might walk in on us?"

Bill had been put completely at ease by this bantering indication that Clara knew who he was and welcomed him as an intriguing diversion. Quite literally, the one person who could not walk in on them, as the ancients thought of it, was his own hypoalter, Conrad Manz.

In the end Bill is caught and gets the death penalty:

Bill looked at Major Grey and said, "What are you going to do?"

The officer ran his hand back through his whitening hair, but he looked at Bill without wavering. "You will be erased."

[. .. .]

It was Conrad Manz who looked up at them with a wry grin. He rotated his shoulders to loosen them. "How many of you pushed old Bill Walden around? He left me with some sore muscles. Well, I did that often enough to him...."

Major Grey stood over him, face sick and white with the horror of what he had seen. "According to law, Mr. Manz, you and your wife are entitled to five rest days on your next shift. When they are over, you will, of course, report for suspended animation for what would have been your hyperalter's shift."

Conrad Manz's grin shrank and vanished. "Would have been? Bill is—gone?"

"Yes."

"I never thought I'd miss him." Conrad looked as sick as Major Grey felt. "It makes me feel—I don't know if I can explain it—sort of amputated. As though something's wrong with me because everybody else has an alter and I don't. Did the poor son of a straitjacket suffer much?"

"I'm afraid he did."

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  • Thank you. Yes, this is it. Apologies for the late answer, but I didn't know how to access this, and then I saw a tiny number at the top, and I clicked on it. Commented Aug 27, 2022 at 11:23
  • You're welcome! You can "accept" my answer by clicking on the check mark next to it, which will then turn green. scifi.stackexchange.com/help/accepted-answer
    – user14111
    Commented Aug 27, 2022 at 19:16

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