Blogs by Holly Weiss
A Review of The Other Life by Ellen Meister
2/25/2011 1:16:33 PM
Beyond a Crack in the Foundation Lies the Life She Might Have Lived
The Other Life is fascinating, original and intriguing. Exploring the complexities of mother/daughter dynamics, the book examines the consequences when that love is put to the ultimate test. If you are longing for invigorating, relevant writing over a broad emotional plane, you will love this book. Be prepared to be touched deeply.
What would you do if you had the option of escaping from today into a life that might have been yours had you made different choices? Quinn Braverman finds portals to the life she might have led to be irresistible lures. She vacillates between her present-day life and the road not taken throughout the novel. We find ourselves relating to Quinn and her family in one time frame and then, just as our comfort zone is set, we are drawn into Quinn’s alternate life. Grieving over an abnormality in her unborn baby, Quinn desperately seeks comfort from her dead mother, Nan. However, in that alternate life, Nan had tormented her daughter with unpredictable episodes of depression. Complicated? Yes. Grief, emotional chaos and the difficulty of making the right choices abound. Ms. Meister handles all of this tricky business with ease. Some descriptions of sexual encounters are included, but they do not overwhelm the book.
Author, wife, mother, curator, and lecturer on literary issues, Ellen Meister created a masterpiece in her new novel, The Other Life. A departure from her earlier light, hilarious books, The Other Life not only explores mother/daughter love but is also a tribute both to its blessings and curses. In an interview, Ms. Meister stated that book clubs enjoy novels with fresh writing, complex characters and emotional dilemmas to which readers can relate. She met that challenge with this creative tour de force.
The book is interspersed with metaphorically brilliant vignettes called “Quinn Deconstructed,” a series of paintings done by Nan. Each depicts Nan’s perceptions of Quinn’s earlier life. There are other stunning touches. A suicide note in the form of a painting. A house not put on the market for seventeen years to preserve a child’s memories. A pink infant’s outfit kept by a mother in anticipation of her granddaughter’s birth.
The Other Life is a riveting read for thoughtful women. Recommended for book clubs, mothers, daughters, and anyone who longs for the listening ear of a deceased, loving parent.
I thank G. P. Putnam’s Sons for supplying me with a review copy. The opinions expressed in my review are unbiased and wholly my own.
Reviewed by Holly Weiss, author of Crestmont
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