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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.
I am an 8th grader who needed to read a book for AR. I felt this book was a great choice, coming from one who doesn't like to read at all. Read morePublished 8 days ago by Brooklyn Caronchi
Love this book. Recently I lost very dear friends and I find this book to be very comforting in a strange way.Published 9 days ago by SimaM
Charming story ! Gentle humor, lovely characters, and quite an interesting take on "life after death". It was so refreshing to read a book without too much angst. Read morePublished 14 days ago by RueRue
I was going to give this book four stars because the author uses the trick of present tense writing. Most of the time, I hate that method. Read morePublished 17 days ago by darswords
I love this perception of the after life ! Amazing book, it was a quick and good read.Published 26 days ago by Zinnia Espinoza
I enjoyed this book and the surprises along the way. It seems I like most everything this author writes! My only compliant is it didn't last long enough!Published 27 days ago by Debtn
This quick read was entertaining and yet reflective. The whimsical story tackles the unknown in delightful way. I appreciated the humor that emerged from such a heavy topic.Published 29 days ago by Sebtown reader