Rated Reads

The Other Life

by Ellen Meister

Rated: High

From a very young age, Quinn has had a sense that there are two of her: one in this life and one in a different life in which she made different decisions. But, even though she has sometimes sensed “portals” that could take her into that other life, she has never chosen to go through them.

Now, married to a good man and the mother of a six-year-old son, Quinn finds herself in a stressful situation, and she is drawn to the small portal she can feel almost pulsing with energy in her house’s basement. She knows that the needy “shock jock” she left years before to marry her husband is still her companion in that other life. But it’s not so much the man she left behind who draws her interest: it’s the mother who’s still alive on that side. Because in this life, her bipolar mother committed suicide seven years earlier. With the trauma she is experiencing in her life “here,” Quinn finds herself in desperate need of guidance and love from the mother she misses so very much.

So Quinn decides to just try visiting her other life. Just once. Briefly. That visit turns into several visits, and she realizes that each time she visits, it becomes more and more difficult to return. As her life becomes increasingly challenging on this side, Quinn is tempted to stay on the other side. Can she leave behind her beloved husband and a young son who need her? But if she stays here and never returns to that other life, how can she abandon the mother she loves?

I was drawn to The Other Life by its intriguing story; many of us have wondered how different our lives would be if we had just made one different choice at a critical juncture. What-if’s are so alluring. But I found myself drawn into Meister’s book not just by the possibilities of “returning to the road not taken,” but by its beautiful approach to the love between a mother and daughter. Meister addresses heavy issues of grief, loss, love, and difficult decisions in parenting, and does it with aplomb. She gently puts each issue into the mix and stirs with delicacy. I was so drawn into the story and the characters that I devoured the book in two days.

The Other Life is an engaging read, one that strikes deep in the heart.

Rated: High, for about nine uses of strong language, other uses of milder language, and four or five moderately detailed sex scenes.

— Reviewed by Cathy Carmode Lim

Cathy Carmode Lim has been reviewing books for newspapers for about 20 years, two of which she was a book page editor. She founded Rated Reads in January 2008.

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  • The Other Life
  • by Ellen Meister
  • Rated: High
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reviewer: