25 June 2014

Elsewhere

Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Elsewhere is different than any other novel I have read before.  I've read other books about the afterlife, the most recent that comes to mind is Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall, but they all stem from the same philosophy of ghosts, where it is the spirit or the soul of someone who stays around after they die because they are still tied to the world for one reason or another.  Zevin takes a different spin on what awaits after life and includes reincarnation so beautifully you kind of find yourself hoping that Zevin's world is what awaits for you in the end.

First, you start out on a cruise ship.  Right there, I am hooked (unless this after life cruise ship is on the Carnival cruise line... then perhaps I would not be so excited).  Then, our hit and run heroine, Liz, finds herself greeted by a grandmother she never knew on an island simply called Elsewhere.  Still trying to get used to being dead, Liz spends her days in her pajamas (again, completely sold!) and watching down on her family still alive.

Elsewhere explores Liz's difficulty with letting go of her previous life and adjusting to the after world, especially when she finds out there is a forbidden way to communicate with the world and her family she left behind.  While hardly much happens in Liz's afterlife (after all, she is stuck on an island), it's the emotional journey that matters in Elsewhere.

The narrative of the novel was rather juvenile compared to the content of the story (while Liz dreams of growing old, getting married and having kids and spies her parents having sex, she also have a fight with Owen where they both sound like 10 year old kids, and they make up irrationally fast after that).  Some of the elements were hard to believe (the fact that every dead person passes through Elsewhere, and most stay for quite a while, but Liz really only meets a handful of people through her sixteen year stint there), and others were conveniently ignored (if everyone just works doing what they love, then who manufactures things such as cars and diving gear - and where do the materials come from - and how is gasoline provided for boats and cars, and what about the issue of bowels, since they still eat (and where is food grown and processed)?  The little details urked me, but I tried not to read into them too much as I realize this novel is written for a younger crowd.

Despite all this misgivings I had with Elsewhere, I still enjoyed the novel.  For a young adult novel written with a middle school vocabulary, it still have rather deep roots and I pulled some rather elegant quotes from the story.  One I will not likely add to my private library, but one I would not be opposed to reading again if I ever ran out of new material to try.

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