Monday, February 21, 2011
The Other Life by Ellen Meister
Quinn Braverman had two secrets she kept from her husband. One was that the real reason she chose him over Eugene, her neurotic, self-loathing, semi-famous ex-boyfriend, was to prove her mother wrong. She could have a relationship with a normal, stable man.
The other was that Quinn knew another life existed in which she had made the other choice. The two lives ran in parallel lines, like highways on opposite sides of a mountain. There, on the other side, the Quinn who had stayed with Eugene was speeding through her high-drama, emotionally exhausting, childless urban life. Here, the Quinn who had married Lewis lived in the suburbs of Long Island, drove a Volvo, and was pregnant with her second child.
But the important part of the secret- the part that terrified and thrilled her- was that she knew it was possible to cross from one life to the other..
I think we can all say that at one point of our life or another, we've all wondered- what if. What if I hadn't gone to that college, what if I had married that first boy, what if I had moved away after school, etc. And while I don't necessarily think it's healthy to really dwell on that because as we all know, you can't change the past you can only shape the future, I do think that occasionally pondering that helps you decide what path to take for your future.
Such as the case in this book. What the preview doesn't say is that Quinn is pregnant with her second child who likely has a serious medical concern- a possibly life threatening disability that may cause the baby to be still born, and if the baby does survive it faces all uphill battles. Now, any of us with children who have gone through a pregnancy anxious about your baby's development can certainly understand Quinn's point of view in this book. You put the brave face on for your other child and try to be supportive of your husband.... while you are devastated, scared, and have no idea what you are going to do. In situations like this you really want your mom to tell you it's going to be ok and you will get through it. Sadly, Quinn's mother committed suicide so it's like she is grieving two things at once- overwhelming for anyone.
I really appreciated how the author portrayed Louis (the husband) because I really got the sense that a lot of husbands and expectant fathers would act similarly. I really like how Quinn's grief is described and how the author makes you feel like you are Quinn's very best friend and you're walking with her through the grief.
I will say that I got frustrated with Quinn because she discovers these portals and is going back and forth between her real life, and life that essentially could have been. I will say that I haven't lost a parent so I can't possibly know the sadness Quinn was feeling, so maybe I don't understand why she would act out selfishly by going back and forth and debating which place to stay in. To me, as a mother, staying where my kids were would be an automatic, so that kind of made me dislike Quinn for a bit.
BUT I absolutely LOVED how the book started, and then how it ended with Quinn's mom. I think it book ended the story as a whole wonderfully and it explained the portal thing perfectly.
I would say this reminds me of a Jodi Picoult story, even though I can't stand Jodi Picoult. So this is like Picoult for the non-whiners. :) I highly recommend this book because it really makes you think about your life. If you could see what your life would have been like, and you had the choice to actually be in it just to try it out... would you go back to the other life? I don't know that I would... but I guess I won't ever know.