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Another Life Altogether: A Novel Hardcover – February 23, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; First Edition edition (February 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385530048
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385530040
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,767,546 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Jesse Bennett, the 13-year-old heroine of Beale's charming debut, longs to escape the humdrum life of Britain's East Yorkshire. Stuck in a small town with her unstable mother and ineffectual father, Jesse wants to see the world, but her hopes of breaking free are dashed when her mother attempts suicide and her father, reasoning that a change of scene will help his wife recover, moves the family farther into the country. But the people of rural Midham are less than welcoming to the strange new arrivals. Eventually, Jesse falls in with Tracey and Amanda, the toughest and most feared girls in town, though with this security comes increased scrutiny: Jesse must pretend to be just like her mates, and even though she cares nothing for clothes or boys and despises the meanness, she develops a crush on Amanda that threatens to end unfavorably. Beale's lively narrative captures, with touching accuracy, the plights of adolescence; if the novel sometimes veers toward the saccharine and relies on less than surprising plot twists, Jesse's affirming arc offers hope in a place where it's in very short supply. (Feb.)
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Review

"Another Life Altogether captivated me from the very first page. Dazzling in its authenticity and utterly absorbing, it is an uplifting story about adolescence, family, and finding one’s place in the world. With the character of Jesse Bennett, Elaine Beale manages to create hope and humor in an otherwise turbulent world. It is a rare, insightful, and gorgeously written novel."—Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants


"Another Life Altogether captivated me from the very first page. Dazzling in its authenticity and utterly absorbing, it is an uplifting story about adolescence, family, and finding one’s place in the world. With the character of Jesse Bennett, Elaine Beale manages to create hope and humor in an otherwise turbulent world. It is a rare, insightful, and gorgeously written novel."—Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants

"Elaine Beale is an extraordinary writer, and Another Life Altogether is heartbreaking and hilarious all at once, as only life can be."—Sandra Cisneros

"Sparkling…Beale [reveals] a mature talent with a sharp eye for both the intricacies of the surface detail and the complexities of the inner life…[She] reminds us that writing, always potentially dangerous, also confers grace, and that with the power of the word, we all have the potential to become the heroines of our own lives."—Boston Globe

More About the Author

Elaine Beale grew up in East Yorkshire, England. She studied creative writing at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, and was the winner of the 2007 Poets & Writers California Exchange writing contest in fiction. She lives in Oakland, CA.

Customer Reviews

I read the book in a weekend and could not put it down.
Barbara Leigh Ohrstrom
The characters are vivid, the plot works really well, and I felt really drawn in from the very beginning.
Grace Helu Lara
Elaine Beale is fantastic and this book is something I highly highly recommend.
KinDC

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Cipriano on March 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. -- Anna Karenina --

I thought of that legendary opening sentence when Elaine Beale raised the curtain of Another Life Altogether with this inaugural humdinger:
The day after my mother was admitted to the mental hospital, I told everyone at school that she had entered a competition on the back of a Corn Flakes box and won a cruise around the world.
The narrator is Jesse Bennett, a thoughtful, intelligent, introspective thirteen year old girl struggling to find her identity, her place. It's the 1970's. Yorkshire, England. Bay City Rollers, etc.
Jesse's an only child, trying to fit in and be accepted amongst her peers, and it doesn't help matters that her mother has serious psychological problems that keep landing her in Delapole, the local loony bin! Her optimistic father deals with the debilitated home situation by pretending things are not as bad as they really are, but [as one might imagine] the toll on a daughter in such a scenario can be devastating. Jesse resents the fact that she must excuse her mother's actions, and continually protect her from herself.
The Bennetts move to the country, to a remote community in order to make a new start of things. Here Jesse encounters the same struggle for acceptance but eventually strikes a friendship with Tracey, a bit of a rotten-apple of a kid. Influenced by her allegiance to Tracey, Jesse struggles to be true to herself and her own capabilities and desires. Fitting in is everything -- and meanwhile, her mother gets loonier and loonier.
Jesse has a secret known only to herself, and expressed only in the unsent letters she has hidden away in a cookie-tin, kept in the closet.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Barbara Leigh Ohrstrom on March 22, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Another Life Altogether: A Novel This subtle book meets the test of literature: it is a luminous and beautiful story centered around a compelling and complex character, and the sentences themselves are gorgeous. I read the book in a weekend and could not put it down. For anyone who has faced alienation and lonesomeness, for anyone who has struggled between doing what is right and doing what wins social acceptance, this book will resonate for you. Warm, humane, and compassionate, the book also exposes the complexities and shortcomings of the human being struggling with conditions within the family and the social hazing of schools. The book is set within the context of surviving bullying, but because the main character, Jesse, is so ambivalent between her fierce longing to be accepted and her fierce need to be true to herself, tension and suspense filled the book: what will Jesse ultimately do? Other characters demonstrate how being an outsider or alienated, even within one's own family, can originate from multiple causes: poverty, mental illness, family violence, and homophobia.

But mostly, I loved it because I felt it; the main character, her mother, her father, the girl with whom she fell in love, and the antagonist all generated passions within me. I was lost in Jesse's world while reading this book; I fell in love with the book, which is exactly what any grand piece of literature really and truly does. So read it to relate to it, read it to get validated in political viewpoints, but mostly, just read it because it will make you feel, and ultimately, in these days of challenge for all of us to be true, it will make you feel a little less alone; it will make you feel good.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ellen Appleby-Keim on April 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover
On the surface this book is about a young girl's attempt to deal with her mother's mental illness and her own questions about her sexuality. But beneath the surface it is about so much more. First of all, it is a finely nuanced portrait of a young teen who is trying to find a way to balance her need for acceptance with her desire to be herself. She is beginning to question and explore her sexual identity even though she knows that she might end up becoming an outcast. She is also struggling with her need for a normal family life and with how to accept her family as it is. The normal conflicts between a teen-age girl and her mother are exacerbated by her mother's illness, with Jesse left feeling that she doesn't have a mother at all. (This is mirrored by her mother's extreme reaction to her own mother's "abandonment.")

On another level this is about the dilemma that all LGBT people face: whether to hide in hopes of societal acceptance or come out and run the risk of becoming an outcast. Jesse is lucky in a way that she has to come to terms with this decision at an early age. She discovers that being accepted by the "in" crowd doesn't make you feel "in" if you can't be yourself. By the end of the novel we see a young lady who has taken a huge step toward living her life authentically.

This book is also about homophobia and the extremes to which some members of society will go to punish homosexuals. It's also about the bravery of those who take a stand against homophobia, along with their empathy and sense of justice.

Perhaps because Jesse is trying so hard to fit in during the first half of the novel, her personality is somewhat subdued. But as events unfold that threaten to destroy the life she is attempting to make for herself, she becomes more fully-fleshed-out as a character and I found myself fully engrossed in her struggles to make sense of the life she really lives.

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