The Other Life by Ellen Meister - BOOK REVIEW2/28/2011 10:01:00 AM
Title: The Other Life
The Book Depository / Amazon
Author: Ellen Meister
Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons, a division of Penguin Group
Publish Date: February 17, 2011
Hardcover, 320 pages
ISBN 10: 0399157131
ISBN 13: 9780399157134
Happily married and pregnant, Quinn Braverman has an ominous secret. Every time she makes a major life decision, she knows an alternate reality exists in which she made the opposite choice-not only that, she knows how to cross over. But even in her darkest moments-like her mother's suicide-Quinn hasn't been tempted to slip through...until she receives devastating news about the baby she's carrying.
The grief lures her to peek across the portal, and before she knows it she's in the midst of the other life: the life in which she married another man, and is childless. The life in which her mother is still very much alive.
Quinn is forced to make a heartbreaking choice. Will she stay with the family she loves and her severely disabled child? Or will an easier life-and the primal need to be with her mother-win out?
First sentence: On the day that Nan Gilbert decided to kill herself, she awoke sometime after noon to the sound of her neighbor playing the radio in his backyard.
Quinn has known for a long time that there are portals open to her; portals that lead to a life that she could have led by making a different decision here or there. There's even one in her basement behind the old-fashioned pull-out ironing board. Her mother had her own secrets, and we sense that she knew about the portals before she died after losing her battle with depression.
With a much-loved 6-year-old son Isaac and her loving husband, Lewis, Quinn should feel satisfied and happy with her life. When she finds out that the new baby she's carrying has a congenital defect that could cause a lifetime of impairment, she feels that Lewis is shutting her out, talking to everyone except her about his feelings. Her brother Hayden is bipolar as well, and she worries about him and his partner Cordell, who she dislikes and feels doesn't treat her brother well.
As her life becomes more complicated, Quinn begins to journey back and forth from this life to the other. The other life ... where her mother is still alive, her old beau is rich and famous, and she has no worries about her baby. The problem: this is not a parallel life; when she goes to the other life, she is missing in this one...and it's getting harder and harder for her to come back.
I think many of us have those "What if's" in our lives, and this book does a good job of letting us know that we journeyed down a certain path for a reason. I enjoyed the book; Quinn is a believable and likeable protagonist, and the secondary characters are wonderful as well. I like some of the twists that let us know that people we thought were not-so-great are pretty great after all, and the complex and loving familial emotion is spot on.
But of course that was Quinn's nature - she was a caregiver. All those years of handling her mother's moods had taken root in her psyche, and Quinn grew toward the troubled like a plant seeking sunlight.
She was crying because a grown-up writer believed that beautiful sentences weren't wasted on children. And because even as an adult, she still struggled to believe she deserved any tenderness at all.
If she had only stayed with Eugene, her mother would be alive now. It didn't mean she didn't love Lewis and Isaac with all her heart, but the unfairness of the trade-off was too much to bear.
BOOK RATING: 4 out of 5 stars
BUY IT: At Amazon, The Book Depository (international), through the publisher's website, and through other on-and-off-line booksellers.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher through Shelf Awareness to facilitate my review. No other compensation was received and I was not required to post a positive review.