Elsewhere: A Novel

Elsewhere: A Novel

by Gabrielle Zevin

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Is it possible to grow up while getting younger?

Welcome to Elsewhere. It is warm, with a breeze, and the beaches are marvelous. It's quiet and peaceful. You can't get sick or any older. Curious to see new paintings by Picasso? Swing by one of Elsewhere's museums. Need to talk to someone about your problems? Stop by Marilyn Monroe's psychiatric practice.

Elsewhere is where fifteen-year-old Liz Hall ends up, after she has died. It is a place so like Earth, yet completely different. Here Liz will age backward from the day of her death until she becomes a baby again and returns to Earth. But Liz wants to turn sixteen, not fourteen again. She wants to get her driver's license. She wants to graduate from high school and go to college. And now that she's dead, Liz is being forced to live a life she doesn't want with a grandmother she has only just met. And it is not going well. How can Liz let go of the only life she has ever known and embrace a new one? Is it possible that a life lived in reverse is no different from a life lived forward?

This moving, often funny book about grief, death, and loss will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned.

Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin is a 2006 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312367466
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication date: 05/15/2007
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 57,723
Product dimensions: 5.64(w) x 8.27(h) x 0.85(d)
Lexile: 720L (what's this?)
Age Range: 12 - 18 Years

About the Author

Gabrielle Zevin is the author of award-winning books for young adults including Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, and books for adults including The Hole We're In and Margarettown. She was also the screenwriter for Conversations with Other Women, which received an Independent Spirit Award nomination. Of her writing, The New York Times Book Review said, "Zevin's touch is marvelously light even as she considers profundities." A dog lover and Harvard graduate, she lives in New York City.


New York, New York

Date of Birth:

October 24, 1977

Place of Birth:

Poughkeepsie, New York


A.B. in English and American Literature, Harvard College, 2000

Read an Excerpt

ELSEWHERE (chapter 1)

At Sea

Elizabeth Hall wakes in a strange bed in a strange room with the strange feeling that her sheets are trying to smother her.

Liz (who is Elizabeth to her teachers; Lizzie at home, except when she's in trouble; and just plain Liz everywhere else in the world) sits up in bed, bumping her head on an unforeseen upper bunk. From above, a voice she does not recognize protests, "Aw hell!"

Liz peers into the top bunk, where a girl she has never seen before is sleeping, or at least trying to. The sleeping girl, who is near Liz's own age, wears a white nightgown and has long dark hair arranged in a thatch of intricately beaded braids. To Liz, she looks like a queen.

"Excuse me," Liz asks, "but would you happen to know where we are?"

The girl yawns and rubs the sleep out of her eyes. She glances from Liz to the ceiling to the floor to the window and then to Liz again. She touches her braids and sighs. "On a boat," she answers, stifling another yawn.

"What do you mean 'on a boat'?"

"There's water, lots and lots of it. Just look out the window," she replies before cocooning herself in the bedclothes. "Of course, you might have thought to do that without waking me."

"Sorry," Liz whispers.

Liz looks out the porthole that is parallel to her bed. Sure enough, she sees hundreds of miles of early-morning darkness and ocean in all directions, blanketed by a healthy coating of fog. If she squints, Liz can make out a boardwalk. There, she sees the forms of her parents and her little brother, Alvy. Ghostly and becoming smaller by the second, her father is crying and her mother is holding him. Despite the apparent distance, Alvy seems to be looking at Liz and waving. Ten seconds later, the fog swallows her family entirely.

Liz lies back in bed. Even though she feels remarkably awake, she knows she is dreaming, for several reasons: one, there is no earthly way she would be on a boat when she is supposed to be finishing tenth grade; two, if this is a vacation, her parents and Alvy, unfortunately, should be with her; and three, only in dreams can you see things you shouldn't see, like your family on a boardwalk from hundreds of miles away. Just as Liz reaches four, she decides to get out of bed. What a waste, she thinks, to spend one's dreams asleep.

Not wanting to further disturb the sleeping girl, Liz tiptoes across the room toward the bureau. The telltale sign that she is, indeed, at sea comes from the furniture: it is bolted to the floor. While she does not find the room unpleasant, Liz thinks it feels lonely and sad, as if many people had passed through it but none had decided to stay.

Liz opens the bureau drawers to see if they are empty. They are: not even a Bible. Although she tries to be very quiet, she loses her grip on the last drawer and it slams shut. This has the unfortunate effect of waking the sleeping girl again.

"People are sleeping here!" the girl yells.

"I'm sorry. I was just checking the drawers. In case you were wondering, they're empty," Liz apologizes, and sits on the lower bunk. "I like your hair by the way."

The girl fingers her braids. "Thanks."

"What's your name?" Liz asks.

"Thandiwe Washington, but I'm called Thandi."

"I'm Liz."

Thandi yawns. "You sixteen?"

"In August," Liz replies.

"I turned sixteen in January." Thandi looks into Liz's bunk. "Liz," she says, turning the one syllable of Liz's name into a slightly southern two, Li-iz, "you mind if I ask you a personal question?"

"Not really."

"The thing is"--Thandi pauses--"well, are you a skinhead or something?"

"A skinhead? No, of course not." Liz raises a single eyebrow. "Why would you ask that?"

"Like, 'cause you don't have hair." Thandi points to Liz's head which is completely bald except for the earliest sprouts of light blond growth.

Liz strokes her head with her hand, enjoying the odd smoothness of it. What hair there is feels like the feathers on a newborn chick. She gets out of bed and looks at her reflection in the mirror. Liz sees a slender girl of about sixteen with very pale skin and greenish blue eyes. The girl, indeed, has no hair.

"That's strange," Liz says. In real life, Liz has long, straight blond hair that tangles easily.

"Didn't you know?" Thandi asks.

Liz considers Thandi's question. In the very back of her mind, she recalls lying on a cot in the middle of a blindingly bright room as her father shaved her head. No. Liz remembers that it wasn't her father. She thought it was her father, because it had been a man near her father's age. Liz definitely remembers crying, and hearing her mother say, "Don't worry, Lizzie, it will all grow back." No, that isn't right either. Liz hadn't cried; her mother had been the one crying. For a moment, Liz tries to remember if this episode actually happened. She decides she doesn't want to think about it any longer, so she asks Thandi, "Do you want to see what else is on the boat?"

"Why not? I'm up now." Thandi climbs down from her bunk.

"I wonder if there's a hat in here somewhere," says Liz. Even in a dream, Liz isn't sure she wants to be the freaky bald girl. She opens the closet and looks under the bed: both are as empty as the bureau.

"Don't feel bad about your hair, Liz," Thandi says gently.

"I don't. I just think it's weird," Liz says.

"Hey, I've got weird things, too." Thandi raises her canopy of braids like a theater curtain. "Ta da," she says, revealing a small but deep, still-red wound at the base of her skull.

Although the wound is less than a half inch in diameter, Liz can tell it must have been the result of an extremely serious injury.

"God, Thandi, I hope that doesn't hurt."

"It did at first; it hurt like hell, but not anymore." Thandi lowers her hair. "I think it's getting better actually."

"How did you get that?"

"Don't remember," says Thandi, rubbing the top of her head as if she could stimulate her memory with her hands. "It might have happened a long time ago, but it could have been yesterday, too, know what I mean?"

Liz nods. Although she doesn't think Thandi makes any sense, Liz sees no point in arguing with the crazy sorts of people one meets in a dream.

"We should go," Liz says.

On the way out, Thandi casts a cursory glance at herself in the mirror. "You think it matters that we're both wearing pj's?" she asks.

Liz looks at Thandi's white nightgown. Liz herself is wearing white men's-style pajamas. "Why would it matter?" Liz asks, thinking it far worse to be bald than underdressed. "Besides, Thandi, what else do you wear while you're dreaming?" Liz places her hand on the doorknob. Someone somewhere once told Liz that she must never, under any circumstances, open a door in a dream. Since Liz can't remember who the person was or why all doors must remain closed, she decides to ignore the advice.

ELSEWHERE. Copyright 2005 by Gabrielle Zevin.

Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

1. Water is a powerful image and symbol that runs throughout the book. Liz's story opens on the ocean; the Well is in the water; the Observation Decks face the water; Liz can communicate through a water source with her brother, Alvy. What other aspects of the importance of water are evident in the novel? Why does the author elect to use water as such an essential symbol? Comment on some of the other symbols, such as Liz's stitches, the watch her father gave her, and the snow globe.

2. This novel is divided into three separate parts and also employs a prologue and an epilogue. Understanding the structure of the novel is important to understanding the story itself. Why is the scene with Liz's dog, Lucy, the first glimpse the author provides of the story? How does this scene foreshadow what will come later in the novel? How does the epilogue bring the novel not to a close but to a resolution? What purpose do the three parts serve? What important events occur in each of the three parts?

3. There are many characters who are part of the story of Elsewhere, all of them critical to it. The author, Gabrielle Zevin, introduces the characters early in the story. Liz meets Thandi and Curtis on the ship, Grandma Betty upon her arrival, Aldous Ghent at the acclimation session, and Owen at the Well. No characters, not even the canine ones, are minor to the story. Explore how the characters move the novel forward. For instance, what important role does Esther, the supervisor at the Observation Deck, play? Why is Thandi critical to the story? Could the novel be complete without Sadie or Lucy or Alvy? How does each of them help Liz adjust to life on Elsewhere and come to understand that life on Elsewhere is something to be cherished?

4. Notice the allusions made to classic and contemporary literature throughout the novel. Liz recalls a line about antique lands. Aldous Ghent prompts Liz to read Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Liz reads E. B. White's Charlotte's Web as she grows younger. Finally, Owen reads Natalie Babbitt's Tuck Everlasting to Liz when she is no longer able to read on her own. Every one of these titles deals with some aspect of life as it relates to Elsewhere as well as Earth. How does each address some facet of Liz's life and experiences?

5. How does the author use humor in the novel? What examples of wordplay are evident? For instance, Liz is aboard a ship called the Nile and Thandi tells her she is in denial (de-nile). Another example of this gentle humor is when Liz meets Sadie and informs the dog that she is drinking from a toilet. Locate other instances of humor and discuss how it is used in the novel. Is the humor intended to defuse the emotion of a serious situation or scene? Is it more of a way to show how Liz is becoming acclimated to life on Elsewhere?

6. How does the structure of the site reflect the structure and content of the novel?

7. Liz and all the other arrivals in Elsewhere are encouraged to find an avocation to pursue during their time there. Ghent explains to Liz that an avocation is something that makes one's soul complete (page 74). Some of the residents of Elsewhere work in avocations similar to the jobs they did on Earth; others have new ones. Marilyn Monroe becomes a psychiatrist. Curtis Jest decides to be a fisherman and comments that John Lennon is a gardener. How do the avocations of Monroe, Lennon, Owen, Betty, Curtis, and other characters reflect what they really want out of their new lives?

Customer Reviews

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Elsewhere 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 606 reviews.
CarlJM More than 1 year ago
Liz is your typical teenage girl until she is killed in a car accident. She then finds herself on a strange boat with a one-way ticket to Elsewhere where she will begin her afterlife. All Liz wants is to be back home with her family and friends. She just can't seem to move on from the past and start her new "life" in Elsewhere. In her novel Elsewhere, Gabrielle Zevin weaves an intriguing story about a fascinating world called Elsewhere that will change the way you think about an afterlife. Elsewhere is the home to people who have died. When Liz arrives in Elsewhere she meets her Grandmother who had died of Breast Cancer before Liz was born. Liz soon discovers the Observation Decks, which allow the residents of Elsewhere to see what is happening on earth. She becomes obsessed with watching her family and friends and even tries to make contact with the living, which is illegal in Elsewhere. One of the things that makes this book so thought provoking is that every resident of Elsewhere ages backwards until they are babies. When they are seven days old, the babies are placed in the river to float back to earth where they are reborn. I think this an interesting twist that the author added to give the story more depth. Elsewhere is a great book for readers who enjoy a little bit of fantasy mixed with realistic fiction. In the end, readers will come to understand that death is not something to fear. Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin is a bittersweet book full of thoughtful details.
SeasandOceans More than 1 year ago
Elsewhere is so emotional and riveting, I couldn't stop reading it! Its hilarious and bittersweet at parts, and the relationships the characters have are fascinating. The afterlife described in this book is intriguing. The writing flows beautifully with the story and makes the reader want MORE!
penguin123 More than 1 year ago
I really liked this book because it kept me on the edge of my seat. I think the author did a really good job on this book because I enjoyed it very much. This was definitely the best book I have ever read. I recommend this book to other people like me who like fictional books. I really liked it there really should be another one!
Jessi-21 More than 1 year ago
In this unique vision of the afterlife, the recently deceased find themselves aboard the SS Nile, bound for Elsewhere. The thing about Elsewhere is that it's just like "here", with houses and cars and jobs, except that people age backwards, getting younger every year. "What happens when you hit the big zero?" you may ask. Let's just say that in Elsewhere, recycling is the way to go, gently down the stream, without a paddle. At first, fifteen year old Lizzie finds it hard to adjust to not being alive, but with the love and support of her now middle-aged grandmother, she is finally able to find her niche in death. Along the way she makes mistakes, but she also makes life-long friends, although of course that's a variable factor anywhere. A "coming of age" story in reverse and an intriguing concept (albeit a little over-simplified in certain aspects) this book is recommended for ages twelve and up, but definitely one to be considered.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The ending was the best. It was so well put together and happy that i felt like crying. Elswhere is about a girl named liz who dies getting hit by a cab when she is only 15 years old. After dying liz finds her self on the ship to elsewhere- a mgical land where the dead go only to be reborn again. Elswhere is an amazing book full of adventure, friendship, and even a little romance. An unforgetable storry that will remind you never to fear death. A great book that will keep you on the edge of your seat all night long.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was one of the best books I 've ever read. It was emotional and I was practically BAWLING at the end of this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I dont read very often ... but this book caught my eye. This book i think is a very different type of perspective. It was quite obviously written by someone with a wild and creative imagination and i think it deserves to at least be given a chance if u cant buy the book read the sample or go to a library because trust me it was worth my time. if i could give this book more stars i would. :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great book! Definately one of my favorites.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its a good book to put down when you are bored or mad. I think its a good book to read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the best book that I have ever read in my whole entire life
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved this book so much and never wanted it to end! It was so descruprive and i felt like i was there
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
READ IT READ IT READ IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could you imagine dying and getting younger? I couldnt. Elsewhere is a must read book ! I would even read it to my kids if i had someone ! Read it !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was really well written. You just connect with the characters. I loved it, would definitely read it again!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So we have our typical, everyday, run-of-the-mill mail character, Liz. She's your average teenage girl who is pretty and smart and she leads a normal life...until she gets hit by a cab. This book talks about her journey through the afterlife and how she deals with the fact that she is dead. I thought the begining was amazing and I could not seem to put the book down but it was a little short for my taste. If you prefer short and sweet, this book would greatly appeal to you but if you like a longer book that goes in to detail about the story then maybe this book won't appeal to you as much. Even though I did enjoy Elsewhere, I feel a little cheated and dissapointed. So to sum up, a great beginning and middle but the end of the book went by way too fast.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I got this book at my school library. I absolutly loved it. I made my mom read it and she said the main character is just like me. We both like dogs, but she is has a very different story than I do. While in the end don't we all have different stories. :) D.N.
nelliebly1025 More than 1 year ago
A great book on a very interesting subject. You follow the story of a young teenage girl as she grows into a wonderful women, but her body gets younger. The author is captivating in getting you into the story. A simple read, I read it in one day, but well worth. 4 stars only because it was too short!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book "Elsewhere" was a amazing book. Gabrielle Zevin created a story of a fantasy land to take place of heaven. When th main character dies of a car crash she ends up on a boat with other people. She makes many friends but is really confused on why she is on a boat and where is the boat taking her? Zevin really makes the book good when the main character is clueless on not knowing where she is. She makes the story a story you can't put down until you finish reading it. Its breath taking descriptions makes you feel like your actually there. You follow the main character until she is a small baby again and goes back to earth. The many adventures of the main character in her after life include all the same things you would do in real life. This makes the book amazingly good. She falls in love in her after life but then gets to young to realize where she is. Gabrielle Zevin is a amazing author and put a amazing book "Elsewhere." -Katie H.
ElizabethRG More than 1 year ago
The book Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin was absolutely outstanding. The logic of the book was kind of hard to grasp, but after a while the fact of where she was living didn't make my head hurt as much. I think that the author really put lots of thought and time into this book. Even the story line amazes me; the plot of the story is about a girl that gets hit by a car and dies. She wakes up on a ship and has no idea where it goes and doesn't remember what happened last. She is kind of stuck with her past and has trouble moving forward, but eventually pushes through. For someone to write a book that is so "out of the box" blows my mind. I could almost perfectly in vision every aspect of the book. Some of the concepts were so unreal while others were everyday life things. I think that this book was a dazzling book with many new ideas to get your brain going. It is definitely one of my all time favorite books and I recommend it to everyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Elsewhere is a very creative story. The author takes you on a jurney though Liz's hard lose; her life. She finds herself in Elsewhere where she meets her Grandmother and other great characters. She also finds out that you age back. She will never be 16, go to prom or drive. She trys to cope with the fact that she is gone but she can't. She meets new friends and someone that helps her cope with her lose. By the end of Elsewhere you will be believing that Elsewhere is real! It is amazing at how the auther created such a story!
soon_to_be_a_teacher More than 1 year ago
I read this book for as a project for my college class in adolesent literature. I felt this would be a good book for a young person to read especially after they might have lost a loved one, it gives one a sense that live goes on after death in a different way, and that your loved ones can still see you and watch over you.
bookaholic_girl More than 1 year ago
The prologue was sort of amusing, but the first half of the book was dappled with moments of dullness. It was in the last half, after Liz started getting on with her "life" (death), that things started to pick up and get interesting. I thought it was cool that both Liz and I want(ed) to be vets and if I had gone to Elsewhere, I would have probably chosen the exact same avocation that she chose. Zevin's idea of the afterlife was truly a unique perspective compared to anything I've ever heard or read. I, personally, have Heaven set as my default place to go when I die, but Elsewhere strikes me as a good vacationing spot. lol. I like the idea of the fact that Elsewhere isn't some perfect place where bad things never happen and you never get hurt. It is bad things and hurtful moments that make one appreciate the good in their life. So even though the beginning could have been better, it was still a fast and pleasent read.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Stories about the Afterlife have always appealed to me. There are thousands upon thousands of interpretations out there about what, exactly, happens to a person after they die. ELSEWHERE is a new spin on an old topic, but it manages to bring emotion, realism, and entertainment to something that is, in most circumstances, a very depressing situation. To me, ELSEWHERE is a combination of Mitch Albom's THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN HEAVEN and Alice Sebold's THE LOVELY BONES, two other wonderful books dealing with death and the Afterlife. ELSEWHERE goes beyond those two books, however, taking readers on a journey into a land so much like Earth, and yet so very, very different.

Fifteen-year old Elizabeth "Liz" "Lizzie" Marie Hall has found herself in ELSEWHERE after dying in a bicycle-meets-taxi accident. After taking a long ride on the SS Nile, Liz has finally realized that she's not in a dream after all, but really, truly dead. When she arrives on Elsewhere, she meets her maternal grandmother, Betty, for the very first time. A woman who died at fifty from breast cancer, Betty is now a woman in her thirties--one of the first surprises Liz is in for is the fact that, on Elsewhere, lives are lived backward from the age of a person's death. Needless to say, this thought depresses Liz. She'll never be sixteen, never have a Massachusetts driver's license, never go to the prom or graduate from high school or go to college or get married. The only thing she has to look forward to is growing younger, until she returns to being an infant and is sent back to Earth to be born again.

Liz spends her first month on Elsewhere spending all of her time--and her grandmother's eternims, the currency used there--to watch her family, friends, and classmates back on Earth. She's soon a regular at the OD's, or Observation Decks, watching life on Earth pass her by. She's upset that her best friend, Zooey, didn't attend her funeral. Her parents are inconsolable, her younger brother, Alvy, tells jokes to get through the day, and her dog, Lucy, refuses to accept that Liz isn't coming back.

It takes awhile, but Liz finally realizes that spending hours upon hours at the OD's is not helping her adjust to life on Elsewhere. She finds a new friend in Owen, one of the detectives in charge of keeping the inhabitants of Elsewhere away from the Well, where contact with people on Earth is possible, but illegal. She once again befriends Thandi, a young girl killed on Earth by a stray bullet, who was her bunkmate on the SS Nile. She gets closer to grandmother Betty, finally takes a job in the Division of Domestic Animals helping recently departed pets find new owners, and seems to be finding a place on Elsewhere.

I really loved this story. One of the most delightful things in ELSEWHERE is the animals, especially the dogs. Liz, a natural at the language of Canine, is able to interpret for her four-legged friends, and finally understand everything they have to say. I can't truly imagine aging backwards, but Gabrielle Zevin has managed to make a truly believable story that is realistic, entertaining, and emotional, all at the same time. This is definitely a recommended read, and in all honesty, I would love to visit the land of Elsewhere again in the future.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was, by far, the most enteresting book i have ever read. I am a christian, so I dont believe that everything in this book could happen, but it sure makes you wonder what really does happen once you are deceased. I hope that everyone can enjoy this book as much as I did! Also even though you might not believe everything that is written in this book you can still enjoy the thought and energy put into it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
There really is nothing I can say about this book, it was beyond flawless!! The author was so very creative with her take on the afterlife! I just thought it was a little sad I even cried at some parts, but it is a MUST READ!!! When Liz is re-born by sneaker clause or by aging backwords, [hehe, I would NEVER give that part away] I think she should have been Zoey's daughter, after she got married at some point in her life [Or did that happen in the book? Read to find out!!] WAY worth more than 5 stars!!! Read in two days!!!