Book Review: The Other Life – Ellen Meister

Title: The Other Life
Author: Ellen Meister
ISBN: 9780399157134
Pages: 320
Release Date: February 17, 2011
Publisher: Putnam
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary:

Quinn Braverman has a great life, on the surface.  She has a loving husband and a beautiful son.  She also has another baby on the way.  But there is a darker side to Quinn’s seemingly idyllic existence – her mother’s suicide, her brother’s bipolar disorder.  Most of all, though, there is the “other side”, a portal through which Quinn can have all of her “what if” questions answered.  She knows that she exists on the other side of this portal and she can see what her life would have been like had she made different decisions.  Though she has never visited, circumstances conspire to make Quinn wonder whether the other life she has might be better than the one she’s leading now.

Review:

There has been a trend toward magical realism and fantastical elements within women’s fiction novels lately.  Books such as The One That I Want by Allison Winn Scotch and The Transformation of Things by Jillian Cantor provide a new dimension to the genre, allowing readers to vicariously do what they can’t in their own lives.  The Other Life is another of these books; the main character, Quinn, knows about the other side, though she’s never gone there.  When life becomes too difficult though, it’s easy for her to consider escaping to a place where she has none of these problems.

To be fair, though, Quinn isn’t really searching for an escape.  Instead, she is seeking understanding, something any reader can identify with.  She wants to know why her mother killed herself, why things with her unborn baby are difficult.  Knowing she is still with her ex-boyfriend on the other side, she wonders if she made the right decision by breaking up with him.  All of these questions and doubts make Quinn easy to identify with, something which might be difficult otherwise, considering how perfect her life appears to be on the surface.  The key to Quinn’s brokenness is her mother and she has to come to terms with that before she can truly live her own life.

The mechanics of the “other side” aren’t really detailed in the book, and as a result, the reader is left with a sketchy interpretation of how it works.  It’s fine for the purposes of this book, since the focus is on Quinn and her character development, but I couldn’t help but want to know more about what exactly was going on with these portals, how they worked, etc.  It’s one area of the book that might leave readers wanting.

The Other Life was an engaging read that will leave readers reflecting on their own lives.  The issues it discusses are timely ones, and it does address the “what if” question very well.  This book would make an excellent book club pick, as readers will wonder at Quinn’s decisions and question whether she is making the right choices for herself.  I definitely recommend this book for fans of women’s fiction.

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Comments

  1. I was just thinking that this book would give you plenty to think about and talk about. It would be tempting to just take a peek, wouldn’t it? But there is no guarantees you would like the answers. Probably why I will never go to a fortune teller, even if I think it is bunk. Personally, I know darn well what my life would look like if I’d made different choices and it wouldn’t be good.

  2. I was just thinking that this book would give you plenty to think about and talk about. It would be tempting to just take a peek, wouldn’t it? But there is no guarantees you would like the answers. Probably why I will never go to a fortune teller, even if I think it is bunk. Personally, I know darn well what my life would look like if I’d made different choices and it wouldn’t be good.

  3. Hmm, while reading your review I thought of the film Sliding Doors – which I very much enjoyed. I’ll look for the book.

  4. Hmm, while reading your review I thought of the film Sliding Doors – which I very much enjoyed. I’ll look for the book.

  5. I am going to be reading this book very soon, and really appreciated reading your thoughts on it. It sounds as if there is a lot of interest going on with these portals, and I am wondering if the scant information on them will bother me as well. I am also interested in the protagonist’s relationship with her mother. Very thoughtful review, thanks!

  6. I am going to be reading this book very soon, and really appreciated reading your thoughts on it. It sounds as if there is a lot of interest going on with these portals, and I am wondering if the scant information on them will bother me as well. I am also interested in the protagonist’s relationship with her mother. Very thoughtful review, thanks!

  7. This sounds like a book I would enjoy – it would give me a lot to think about!

  8. This sounds like a book I would enjoy – it would give me a lot to think about!

  9. I’ve been looking forward to this book since I first heard about it. Like Mary, my first impression was it has a Sliding Doors feel to it. I admit, I am curious to know how the author tackles the character moving back and forth between lives and still make it believable for the reader. Great review!

  10. I’ve been looking forward to this book since I first heard about it. Like Mary, my first impression was it has a Sliding Doors feel to it. I admit, I am curious to know how the author tackles the character moving back and forth between lives and still make it believable for the reader. Great review!

  11. I always like the details when I read anything fantastical; for me, the world building, so to speak, is really a necessity. This still sounds interesting though.

  12. I always like the details when I read anything fantastical; for me, the world building, so to speak, is really a necessity. This still sounds interesting though.

  13. Would certainly give you a lot to think about!

  14. Would certainly give you a lot to think about!

  15. What an interesting setup! With an interesting character (which it sounds like it has), it sounds like a it could be a great read.

  16. What an interesting setup! With an interesting character (which it sounds like it has), it sounds like a it could be a great read.

  17. I’m obsessed with magical realism so I really think I might like this one. Great review.

  18. I’m obsessed with magical realism so I really think I might like this one. Great review.

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