Alyce (At Home With Books)'s Reviews > The Other Life

The Other Life by Ellen Meister
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Mar 27, 12

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If all you are looking for is a good read with some magical realism, and don’t mind a lack of depth in the logic of the travel from one reality to the other, then you will probably like this book. Although it was an entertaining read, it didn’t have the complexity I was looking for in the story.

While I liked seeing the parallel life possibilities, I was disappointed with how Quinn experienced the parallel lives. When she moved from one reality into another she was always the same person, with the same memories from the original reality. Which meant that when she was in a parallel life she had no way of knowing what had happened to her in that past other than drawing conclusions from the circumstances that surrounded her.

I wish that she would have had access to the memories of her alternate self, because I believe that the choices we make have a cascading effect on the person that we become. I think that a series of alternate choices would have changed how her personality developed. Because she didn’t have any of those memories she didn’t get to see who she might have been had she lived that life; she could only see how her actions had affected others. I felt like a huge opportunity was missed by not exploring these themes. Instead the author just scratches the surface of the issues.

I’m willing to accept a lot of strangeness in fiction, especially when it comes to magical realism, so the oddness of the portals – how they seem to be in random static locations – was something I was able to accept as a facet of the story. What seemed strange to me was the manner in which the portals changed as the story progressed (I don’t want to give away anything here, so I won’t get into specifics). Again, I am willing to give a lot of leeway with magical realism, but I can’t help but think there could have been a more logical way of developing the portals within the plot.

I did enjoy the back and forth thinking and inner debate of Quinn’s ethical and personal dilemma, and was pleased by her choice in the end. If you’re like me and want a deeper, more thought-provoking book about alternate realities, I suggest reading Lionel Shriver’s The Post Birthday World.
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