The Other Life

( 45 )

Overview

Read Ellen Meister's blogs and other content on the Penguin Community.

If you could return to the road not taken, would you?

Happily married and pregnant, Quinn Braverman has an ominous secret. Every time she makes a major life decision, she knows an alternate reality exists in which she made the opposite choice-not only that, she knows how to cross over. But even in her darkest moments-like her mother's ...

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The Other Life

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Overview

Read Ellen Meister's blogs and other content on the Penguin Community.

If you could return to the road not taken, would you?

Happily married and pregnant, Quinn Braverman has an ominous secret. Every time she makes a major life decision, she knows an alternate reality exists in which she made the opposite choice-not only that, she knows how to cross over. But even in her darkest moments-like her mother's suicide-Quinn hasn't been tempted to slip through...until she receives devastating news about the baby she's carrying.

The grief lures her to peek across the portal, and before she knows it she's in the midst of the other life: the life in which she married another man, and is childless. The life in which her mother is still very much alive.

Quinn is forced to make a heartbreaking choice. Will she stay with the family she loves and her severely disabled child? Or will an easier life-and the primal need to be with her mother-win out?

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Meister (Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA) ineffectively tackles the question of what one would do if it were possible to choose the path not taken. When 36-year-old Quinn Braverman, a happily married mother of a six-year-old boy, learns that her unborn daughter has a potentially fatal brain abnormality, she's overcome with the desire to just let her own life wash away. As a child, Quinn discovered she could float from one life to another through portals. In the laundry room of her Long Island home, Quinn has found such a gateway in a crack in the wall and decides to go back to the glitzy life she could have led if she had not left her neurotic ex-boyfriend for her husband. In this other life, she can also seek the comforts of her mother, who, in Quinn's current state of being, killed herself as a result of depression. Quinn repeatedly chooses to go back to her "what if" life, knowing that leaving her son and husband behind could emotionally scar them forever. Quinn's selfishness overshadows any sympathy to be had for her character. (Feb.)
From the Publisher
"This is the thinking woman's beach read, a love story to the modern family, written with a deep and lovely understanding of mothers and daughters and the sacrifices they'll make for each other." —-Joshilyn Jackson, author of The Girl Who Stopped Swimming
Kirkus Reviews

Instead of her usual lighthearted comedy, Meister (The Smart One,2008, etc.) attempts spiritual uplift with this semi-supernatural story about a Long Island woman in crisis who accesses portals to an alternative life.

In the 1973 prologue, pregnant and depressed Nan goes into labor as she is attempting suicide. Thirty-six years later Nan's daughter Quinn is living a comfortable suburban life with husband Lewis, who owns a fleet of taxi cabs, and 6-year-old son Isaac, a sensitive artistic prodigy. Pregnant with their second child, Quinn loves Lewis, but she is keeping two secrets: one, that she married him in part to prove to her mother—bipolar Nan, who committed suicide years earlier in 2002—that she could choose a normal guy; and two, that she is aware of the existence of a parallel world in which she is still with her old boyfriend, shock jock Eugene. Quinn carefully avoids the "portal" she knows waits for her in the basement, a "rupture in her universe." Then amniocentesis reveals that the baby she is carrying has a rupture in her skull that may cause major birth defects or worse. Deciding what to do about her pregnancy, Quinn is drawn through the portal into a world where she lives an exciting, childless life with neurotic but exciting Eugene and where Nan is still alive—Nan evidently opened up the portal during her suicide attempt/birthing. As life in her married present gets more stressful, Quinn travels more frequently through the portal to be with Nan, and therefore Eugene. Not that there is much suspense about what choices she is going to make. She'd never desert little Isaac, and Lewis is a selflessly devoted husband, while Eugene is not only creepy but increasingly less attractive. And although the pregnancy is fraught with problems, the overtly stated pro-choice, anti-abortion message makes the outcome a no-brainer.

Despite the (rickety) fantasy bells and whistles, the end result is a standard-issue domestic tearjerker.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425243374
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 12/6/2011
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 384,988
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Ellen Meister

Ellen Meister lives on Long Island with her husband and three children.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 45 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(23)

4 Star

(5)

3 Star

(9)

2 Star

(7)

1 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 45 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 17, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    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

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2011

    The Best This Year!

    LOVED this book! I admit, I had never even heard of Ellen Meister! The story line had me so intrigued and I bought it for my NOOK and have been unable to put it down! You will not be disappointed!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 8, 2013

    When I first started listening to this book, I never meant it to

    When I first started listening to this book, I never meant it to be one that I was going to review on my blog. It was simply meant to be a diversion while I spent an hour each day in my car on my way to and from work. But what I found was I couldn't stop listening. I was listening to it during my prep period at school, before my students came in. I was listening to it while grading worksheets. And once I got toward the end, I was even listening to it before getting out of bed in the morning. I left my review on Goodreads, as usual, (5 stars) but after reading some other terrible reviews, I decided I needed to move my review to a wider platform, because people need to give this story a chance.

    Now, it was quite obvious to me, from the beginning, that this couldn't quite TOTALLY relate to real life, as there are portals to Quinn's 'other life' in the story...portals like this don't actually exist, so of course there is an element of the paranormal, or whatever you might wish to call it. However, that doesn't mean that these portals can't teach us something about real-life situations. Normally, I try to focus on the characters when I give my reviews, for at least a good portion of the review, but this time, I want to focus on the story as a whole, and I'm not going to give ANYTHING away about what happens. There is plenty of spoiler-ish information in the blurb. :) I'm going to leave you now with the review I left on Goodreads, and the hope that you will give this fantastic story about life, love, hope, despair, and choices a chance:

    I loved this story. It made me laugh, it made me ugly cry, and it made me think. There are a lot of crazy things going on in this book, and some people might say it's unrealistic. But there are so many things to be learned from this story. The only thing I truly found unreastic in this story were the portals, and I choose to look at them as the metaphore they are: the 'what ifs' and regrets, and our inability to let go of the past. If you read this book, rather than searching for reality in its pages, search for the truths of the human condition. You might be surprised at the things you are able to relate to.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2012

    Fascinating, intense, emotional all describe The Other Life

    Overall, I was extremely happy with this novel. There would be a couple times where there would be a lull and the next thing I knew, POW! It would stun me with a twist or a shocking revelation. My jaw dropped a few times and I'm sure my husband thought I was crazy. I would be quietly reading and suddenly blurt out "Whoa's" and "OH! Wow"
    I was surprised by some of the conroversial topics discussed but I applaud the authors boldness and bravery. She was very raw with her charactors.
    I was so absorbed by this story. Toward the end, it was like pulling teeth to get me away from my Nook. When I was reading, I felt like I was going through that Portal with Quinn!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    What if could see what your life was like if you made different choices?

    Sometimes we get to a point in our lives and wonder if we could go back and change things would we?

    Quinn Braverman has always had a unique ability to find portals as her brother has come to call them. Places in her life where she can find a sliver of a dual reality if only she were brave enough to take the risk and peer inside. She knows her other self lives there making different choices than the one she has made.

    In her world she has married a safe man, Lewis. He was the owner of a taxi cab company and has provided her the stability in her life she has needed. She also has a six year old son, Issac whom she adores. Now pregnant with the possibility that her new daughter may be born with a serious birth defect and not survive, Quinn is desperate to see just what her other life may be like. Yet what is she can't get back? What really lies on the other side?

    In the novel, The Other Life by Ellen Meister, Quinn gets the opportunity to do just that. To see what her life would have been like if she made different choices, she also gets the opportunity to talk to her mom, who had committed suicide in her current life. What will she say to her? Will it change anything now?

    I received this book, compliments of TLC Book Tours for my honest review and LOVED it! What a unique and interesting storyline for this author to take and makes us all wonder what our choices would be like if we had taken a different path. This one rates a 5 out of 5 stars!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 2, 2011

    Must Read!!

    Okay, so I had done this already once before, but then the cover was added and the publication date was added as well. So, here I go again.
    This is a MUST READ! Seriously people. Ellen Meister has written a beautiful tale of the struggles every woman faces in her life. The wondering of "what if". I was given a pre-copy and I loved this book from cover to cover and over and over again! I have even posted on my Facebook page about how wonderful the book is, and when Ellen posted out to her Cafemom friends about the trailer that was made for it, that video went up too! This is a wonderful book, an absolute MUST read for everyone! I can't wait to get the published version so that I can have BOTH copies!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 26, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    When I read the blurb for this book I was struck with this ques

    When I read the blurb for this book I was struck with this question, What if? Of course I had to give the book a go and just see where it would take me. Would it take me to a happy ever after ending or an ending with nothing but regret. Once I got started with this book I fast realized that it wasn’t a book to be rushed. I would read and let things soak in. I would sit back and think to myself . . “What would I do if I were in Quinn’s shoes?” Some very touchy subjects are worked through in this book. Opening views on things I never gave much thought to. In the end I still wasn’t sure if I would have taken the same path as Quinn, or if I would have walked another road. What I was sure of was, it’s very important to know that each decision we make today changes the path we take tomorrow. Should we try to be a superhero and do it all, we might just cave under all that pressure. Asking for help doesn’t make you any less of a person; if anything it makes you a stronger person. Stronger because you were able to realize a weakness and speak up, not just hide it allowing the pressure of feeling less weigh you down.

    We have all sat and wondering what our life would have been like if we had done this or that. This book gives us the chance to kind of see just what that other path may have had in store for us. If you are looking for a book that is going to pull at your heartstrings and make you think about life, this is the book for you.
    Review by Stephanie O.
    Book provided by publisher. Review originally posted @ Romancing the Book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2013

    Please don't tell the whole plot, it spoils it for everyone else

    Please don't tell the whole plot, it spoils it for everyone else and is inconsiderate. Why read the book if you already know the story. Shame

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  • Posted March 29, 2012

    Great story!

    If the synopsis interests you, then you will not be let down. This book delivers!

    Nice job Ellen Meister!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2011

    The Other Life

    Enjoyed this book very much - such an interesting idea for a story. Must read!

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  • Posted December 19, 2011

    When what could have been becomes what could actually be...

    I really loved this book. It deals with real world issues, but with a supernatural twist. We¿ve all thought about "what might have been" a million times in our lives, but this novel answers the question for one woman. And, on top of that, she has to deal with all of life¿s difficult, sometimes heart-wrenching problems, of which she has more than enough. I don't want to give anything away, though. Just know that it was thought-provoking, enticing, funny, sad, touching, and entertaining. It¿s a bit like a Jodi Picoult novel with a pinch of Stephen King (not the evil clowns, pets, & cars King, but the other dimensions you can pass in & out of King). Wonderful! I cannot wait to get Meister's other books!

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  • Posted December 6, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Explore The Road Not Taken!

    So many readers have pondered Robert Frost's poem where one wonders what life would have been like on "The Road Not Taken." But what if one had the opportunity to do just that, to see what life would yield if one had made a different decision about one's lover or spouse, one's job or anything else one considers of ultimate importance?

    Quinn Braverman lives two lives. As a child, she learned that there were portals she could enter that would take her to another world. Her mother knows about these entrances into another world existing at the same time as the present one but full of different places and "other" people. Quinn isn't a very secure person and at one time ditched her needy ex-boyfriend, Eugene, to marry Lewis, the man who is caring, observant, and totally in tune with pleasing Quinn rather than himself! Sounds like a dream, right?

    But Quinn's life is suddenly turned upside down when she discovers her pregnancy is in danger and the baby she is carrying has a huge medical problem. So is suburban life with this new devastating problem one to continue or should she see what it would be like if she had actually stayed with Eugene in his musical, citified life?Where would she be and more important, who would she be in that other world?

    It's a terrifying journey yet one Quinn cannot stop pursuing. There's a mystery connected with her deceased, artistic mother to which Quinn seeks an answer, hoping to achieve peace with her presently questionable life. She seems to sense that the answers will not only determine what her marriage will be like in the future but also help her make the very important decision about this as yet unborn child.

    The Other Life is riveting reading and finely written. It deserves a wide audience for its tense, complex, and yes, painful but beautiful world! Finely done, Ms. Meister!!!

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  • Posted July 17, 2011

    The Road Less Traveled in 250 pages or less

    Though at times the writing is choppy, the author does a fine job of fleshing out many issues - suicide and mental illness, pro-life vs. abortion, gay marriage, the nature of fidelity and cheating, the daunting prospect of raising a special needs child - and she does it in only 245 pages. I found her perspectives on grief and loss especially moving.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2011

    A Must Read!

    A very moving story - very thought provoking and made me wonder what I would do in Quinn's shoes.

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  • Posted May 23, 2011

    Loved it actually!

    This book was perfect timing in my life.

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  • Posted April 2, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Save your money

    When Quinn's artist mother was pregnant with her, she attempted suicide. Because of this very close brush with death, baby Quinn was born with an unusual ability; she knew there was another Quinn living a different life and that she could identify the "portals" to reach the other side. Throughout the years, her mother protected her from reaching through these portals.

    Fast forward thirty-odd years and Quinn Braverman is a young married mother with one child and another on the way. After undergoing tests, she and and husband Lewis are faced with the horrible choice of terminating the pregnancy or giving birth to a severely disabled child. Quinn's mother had finally succumbed to her depression and died of an overdose, and Quinn desperately wants to talk to her mother about her baby.

    Quinn finally uses the "portal"; a crack in the wall in her basement laundry room to visit the road not taken when she left her self-centered, neurotic lover for Lewis. On the other side, her mother hasn't chosen suicide and Quinn is still with her ex-boyfriend, living a sophisticated urban life. Coming back through the portal to her life with Lewis and her son is more difficult each time Quinn goes through the portal to the other side, and Quinn has to finally face which life is more real and important to her.

    Who wouldn't want to be able to view the fork in the road of life we didn't take? But Meister's trite treatment of this subject as well as a selfish protagonist who uses a crack in a cement wall to escape the difficulties she and her husband are facing is more than silly. Especially since Quinn always seems to get back to reality before her young son's school bus arrives.

    THE OTHER LIFE tries to straddle the line between serious women's fiction and the supernatural and ultimately fails at both. Save your money and skip this one. Lynn Kimmerle

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 22, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I could not get through it

    I read through chapter11 or so and the skipped over the middle and read the final chapter and epilogue. I was bored, there was too much cursing and I felt like I missed none of the story. It was an interesting idea, I just could not get into it.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2011

    Great read!

    Juat loved it ...

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  • Posted March 15, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    This book had me squirming in my seat. It asks the "tough" questions. The ones that we don't like to ask ourselves unless we have to.

    Quinn Braverman is happily married to Lewis. She has one son and is expecting a baby. This should be a joyous time for them all, but Quinn struggles with what she's been given. Her life seems "safe" and at times, a bit mundane. When she discovers a problem with the pregnancy, she is forced to consider her options. Most of us, when faced with a grave decision, make the decision based on any number of things. We look for support in those close to us. We seek guidance from professionals, etc. But Quinn? Quinn's a bit different because she can actually escape her current life, to visit her "other" life, where she is dating Eugene and doesn't have to face any tough decisions. Through a portal in her basement, she attempts to live both lives. As much as I enjoy portals and the idea of parallel universes, I struggled with the premise. Not so much the idea of it, because I can certainly suspend my disbelief in order to enjoy the story, but the execution of the portal pieces, didn't come together for me so much. The appearance and the placement of the portals seemed a bit convenient and I had a tough time believing that a pregnant woman would even attempt to go through one, not knowing what would happen to the baby on the other side. With that said, I was surprised at how anxious I was to get back to reading it! Some readers might argue this point but Quinn is a selfish character. Not overtly so, not enough to hate her, but enough to make me shake my head over her decisions. I kept reading it though because I wanted to see what she would do next and how her decisions would affect her life with Lewis and her son. Overall, this would be a great vacation book. There is enough of a story here to make you want to turn the pages, yet it's not just bubble-gum lit in that there is nothing to think about. Oh, there's plenty to think about and if you're like me, you'll find yourself frustrated over Quinn's decisions, but also cheering her on in the end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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