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The setting is an elaborately conceived afterlife called Elsewhere, a distinctly secular island realm of surprising physical solidity (no cottony clouds or pearly gates here), where the dead exist much as they once did--except that no one dies or is born, and aging occurs in reverse, culminating when the departed are returned to Earth as infants to start the life cycle again.
Having sailed into Elsewhere's port aboard a cruise ship populated by mostly elderly passengers, 15-year-old head-trauma victim Liz Hall does not go gently into Elsewhere's endless summer. She is despairing, intractable, sullen, and understandably furious: "You mean I'll never go to college or get married or get big boobs or live on my own or get my driver's license or fall in love?" She rejects her new existence, spending endless hours keeping tabs on surviving family and friends through magical coin-operated telescopes, and refusing to take the suggestions offered by a well-meaning Office of Acclimation. Eventually, though, she begins to listen. She takes a job counseling deceased pets, forges an unexpected romance with a young man struggling with heartbreaks, and finds simple joy in the awareness that "a life is a good story . . . even a crazy, backward life like hers." Periodic visits with an increasingly youthful Liz, concluding with her journey down the "River" to be reborn, bring the novel to a graceful, seamless close.
Although the book may prove too philosophical for some, Zevin offers readers more than a gimmick-driven novel of ideas: the world of Elsewhere is too tangible for that. "A human's life is a beautiful mess," reflects Liz, and the observation is reinforced with strikingly conceived examples: a newly dead thirtysomething falls in love with Liz's grandmother, who is biologically similar in age but experientially generations older; fresh arrivals reunite with spouses long since departed, creating incongruous May-December marriages and awkward love triangles (as Liz experiences when her boyfriend's wife suddenly appears). At one poignant moment, four-year-old Liz loses the ability to read. The passage she attempts to decipher, which comes from Natalie Babbitt's Tuck Everlasting, is another meditation on the march of time and change.
Although Zevin's conception of the afterlife will inevitably ruffle many theological feathers, the comfort it offers readers grieving for lost loved ones, as well as the simple, thrilling satisfaction derived from its bold engagement with basic, provocative questions of human existence, will far outweigh any offense its metaphysical perspective might give. Far more than just a vehicle for a cosmology, this inventive novel slices right to the bone of human yearning, offering up an indelible vision of life and death as equally rich sides of the same coin. Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Overall, I would highly recommend this book to readers of all ages.
Just the very few pages were so interesting and different from other books I had read, considering the main character, Liz, had just died.
This book pulled me in from the very first page, had me crying on the last page, but with lots of laugh in between.
First, this book needs to be more clearly labeled as a book for young adults. When I purchased it, that was not clearly indicated, or I overlooked it; I was intrigued by the plot... Read morePublished 8 days ago by Anonymous
Fifteen year old Liz Hall wakes up in a cabin of a ship with her family nowhere to be found. Not knowing where she is and not believing she'd be on a ship by herself, she decides... Read morePublished 25 days ago by Jamie W.
great book but kind of happy and depressing
it really maked me question what happens to you after you die
What an amazing book! Came in on the date it had said and read it right when I opened the package!Published 1 month ago by Xenia Gonzalez
Great book! Great story. I loved all the characters. It's an interesting way how the author writes about a heavy topic but the conversations between the characters are light and... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
This is a great book. I love the timeline and how it's written.Published 1 month ago by Leisa Allen
A strange book and story line but finished it, didn't particularly enjoy it though. Makes the thought of death and dying tangiblePublished 1 month ago by Anne Modarelli