Review – The Other Life

The Other Life

By Ellen Meister

Putnam

ISBN: 9780399151713-4

4 stars

If I knew I had another life, I would constantly wonder. Would I be jealous? Would I second guess my choices knowing there may be an alternative? Would I have the courage to try out that other life? This is what made Meister’s book so appealing to me — yes, we can all fantasize about another life but it doesn’t exist. For the main character in The Other Life, it does.

Quinn Braverman is living a happy life in Long Island with her husband Lewis and son Isaac. Pregnant with their second child, Quinn is crushed when she finds out something may seriously be wrong with the baby. Doctors can’t answer her questions and more than ever she longs to talk to her mother who committed suicide shortly after her marriage to Lewis. The simple, stable life she worked so hard for is slowly slipping away with each new day. But Quinn has a secret, one she barely lets herself think about — she has another life. In her staid Long Island home, hidden in the basement behind an old ironing board is a portal to her other life. For years she stayed away from it never even letting herself imagine what it would be like but the stress associated with her pregnancy and the decisions she and Lewis may have to face regarding their baby’s life finally weigh on her. She finds herself hovering around the portal until one day, unable to ignore it any longer, she gives in and goes through. She finds herself back in the Manhattan apartment she shared with her ex-boyfriend and even more surprising — her mother, Nan, is alive and well in this other world.

The complications associated with Quinn’s pregnancy are certainly a reason for wanting to escape, but in truth, she wants to know why her mother took her own life. While Nan always had mental health issues which Quinn understood to be the underlying cause for her suicide, she never fully accepted her death. She misses her especially now when she’s questioning whether or not she will be able to care for a possibly disabled child. She keeps going back to her other life in the hope of understanding her mother better, but in many ways it seems she’s doing it to not just to escape a difficult situation — which her pregnancy definitely is — but she wants and needs closure over her mother’s death. But can she really leave her husband and child forever? Unfortunately, having a life with her mother in it means leaving everything she cherishes behind.

Parts of this book fascinated me and others infuriated me. Quinn is a character you can identify with. She’s any woman living a life that one day takes an incredibly unexpected turn and she wants escape or at least a way to understand why things are happening. She has that means of escape and when she uses it the first time, I felt I understood, but when she kept going back I become frustrated with her. It was almost as if she really was trying to decide whether or not to abandon her family. Fortunately, Quinn isn’t a character I stayed annoyed with for very long. She was too likable for that, for me at least. Plus, I became fascinated by what she would find each time she slipped through the portal.

In many ways this is a family story barring the other life portal which is just a means of examining the character’s life choices and her wondering if she made, and is making, the right decisions. Something we all do wonder about from time to time which makes this a particularly interesting story. Quinn is a strong character but she has her faults and I liked that she wasn’t able to do away with any of these faults simply by slipping into another world. Nan, Quinn’s mother, is another character I found myself drawn to much the way Quinn is. In the end, Meister leaves you with a bumpy road but one you’ll want to travel.

In addition to this blog, I also do reviews for The Book Reporter website. The above review was done for the Book Reporter which can be found here. The book was provided to me by the publisher.

Advertisements

Review – Twice a Spy

Twice a Spy

By Keith Thomson

Doubleday

ISBN: 978-0-385-530-79-8

3.75 stars

I can be a sucker for a thriller/spy novel and when I was contacted about reviewing this one, I agreed.  It has been a good minute since I read a book like this and I do try to step out of my comfort zone when possible.

Charlie Clark is a gambler, a wiz with math but he still can’t win with the horses, so he goes on the run with his girlfriend Alice, who just happens to a NSA agent, and his father Drummond Clark who in fact was a spy but is now suffering from Alzheimer’s.  The interesting thing about Drummond is that when necessary, he can recall his old spy skills which help them get out of a few situations that would have left anyone but Drummond Clark dead.  In Twice a Spy, the plot revolves around a washing machine which is actually a nuclear bomb and a group of terrorists trying to get their hands on it.

This is the second book in an obvious much larger series waiting to happen.  I didn’t read Once a Spy, the precursor, so at times I did feel slightly lost but not because of the story which is easy enough to follow but because I didn’t feel as though I knew these characters well enough.  There’s an interesting camaraderie going on between Charlie and his father but I felt there might have been more about that in the first book.  It transferred well enough but since I’m the type of person that likes to read books in order, it could very well have been my sub-conscience being annoyed at me for not reading the first.

Drummond is a particularly interesting character though and I enjoyed seeing him pull up spy tactics as if he were watching a movie.  The plot, while there, is thin but that’s all right.  It’s a book about terrorist and a bomb so it has all the elements and it moves.  And I mean it moves fast.  The chapters are short.  Dialogue is short.  It’s pretty much non-stop action which is what you expect in a book of this nature.  I don’t know if it’s a series I would continue with, but I thought this installment was a good fast read.

This book was sent to me by the publisher for review.