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The Other Life Hardcover – February 17, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In Meister�s inventive novel, Quinn Braverman is happily living in a Long Island suburb with her beloved husband, Lewis, and their son, Isaac. But in Quinn�s basement is a portal to another life, a life in which Quinn didn�t choose stable Lewis over her shock-jock boyfriend, Eugene. Quinn avoids the lure of the portal for years, until she becomes pregnant with her second child and learns that the child might be seriously disabled. Quinn escapes through the portal one day, only to find that her mother, Nan, who committed suicide soon after Quinn married Lewis, is alive and well in this other reality. Though Quinn can�t fathom leaving her husband and child permanently, the pressure of her complicated pregnancy and the desire to find out why her mother killed herself drive her to keep returning to her other life, even though the portal keeps shrinking every time Quinn uses it. The innovative premise and Quinn�s desire to understand her mother will resonate with readers. --Kristine Huntley


"Gripping! A truly fascinating story of love, loss, and a magical place in between."
– Beth Harbison, New York Times bestselling author of Hope In A Jar

"The Other Life is a provocative and unique tale of the road not taken. Ellen Meister puts a magical, masterful spin on one of my favorite questions: "What if?" What if you took both roads? You won't want to miss this one!"
– Sarah Addison Allen, New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Chased the Moon

"Ellen Meister makes a big leap toward the literary in The Other Life, a book where "What if" becomes the most powerful question in the world. This is the thinking woman's beach read, a love story to the modern family, written with a deep and lovely understanding of mothers and daughters and the sacrifices they'll make for each other."
– Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Stopped Swimming

"Intriguing, stimulating, original, unpredictable, frightening, utterly engaging—The Other Life reminded me why I love to read. Ellen Meister is a writer with a limitless future."
– Michael Palmer, New York Times bestselling author of The Second Opinion and The Last Surgeon

"In her riveting breakthrough novel, The Other Life, gifted storyteller Ellen Meister doesn't just peek in on a young mother who straddles between love and doubt, she blows it open with a story of one who straddles two parallel universes, each with its own perilous decisions. It is a brave and honest exploration of the precarious limits of motherhood that will make readers wonder if Meister followed them with a probe and felt their racing hearts and hopes. If you have ever second guessed the biggest decisions of your life (and who hasn't), The Other Life is a captivating homage to the question, does love conquer all?"
– Saralee Rosenberg, author of Dear Neighbor, Drop Dead and Fate and Ms. Fortune

"I loved this emotional powerhouse of a novel that asks a daring "what if…" and manages to be as charming and funny as it is thoughtful and moving. Brava, Ellen Meister!"
– Melissa Senate, author of See Jane Date and The Secret of Joy


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons; First Edition edition (February 17, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399157131
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399157134
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,949,847 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ellen Meister has written five novels: DOROTHY PARKER DRANK HERE (Putnam 2015), FAREWELL, DOROTHY PARKER (Putnam 2013), THE OTHER LIFE (Putnam 2011), THE SMART ONE (HarperCollins 2008) and SECRET CONFESSIONS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA (HarperCollins 2006). She has also published short stories and essays, and one novelette, THE WISHING CAKE. She teaches creative writing at Hofstra University Continuing Education, and does public speaking about her books and other writing-related issues. Ellen runs a popular Dorothy Parker page on Facebook at For more information visit

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Holly Weiss VINE VOICE on February 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover
The Other Life is fascinating, original and intriguing. Exploring the complexities of mother/daughter dynamics, the book examines the consequences when that love is put to the ultimate test. If you are longing for invigorating, relevant writing over a broad emotional plane, you will love this book. Be prepared to be touched deeply.

What would you do if you had the option of escaping from today into a life that might have been yours had you made different choices? Quinn Braverman finds portals to the life she might have led to be irresistible lures. She vacillates between her present-day life and the road not taken throughout the novel. We find ourselves relating to Quinn and her family in one time frame and then, just as our comfort zone is set, we are drawn into Quinn's alternate life. Grieving over an abnormality in her unborn baby, Quinn desperately seeks comfort from her dead mother, Nan. However, in that alternate life, Nan had tormented her daughter with unpredictable episodes of depression. Complicated? Yes. Grief, emotional chaos and the difficulty of making the right choices abound. Ms. Meister handles all of this tricky business with ease. Some descriptions of sexual encounters are included, but they do not overwhelm the book.

Author, wife, mother, curator, and lecturer on literary issues, Ellen Meister created a masterpiece in her new novel, The Other Life. A departure from her earlier light, hilarious books, The Other Life not only explores mother/daughter love but is also a tribute both to its blessings and curses. In an interview, Ms. Meister stated that book clubs enjoy novels with fresh writing, complex characters and emotional dilemmas to which readers can relate. She met that challenge with this creative tour de force.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By L. Young on March 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover
For anyone who has ever stood at the crossroads, for those of us who have had moments of self-doubt, or pinpricks of longing for what could have been, this book is especially for you.

Although extremely intrigued by the premise, I began reading Ellen Meister's wonderful novel, "The Other Life" with a bit of trepidation, as I thought I was, via reviews and word-of-mouth, already familiar with the possible scenario, thought I knew what to expect, e.g., woman is going through life-changing, difficult time in her life, woman is faced with a dilemma that could be heart-breaking no matter which path she took... I am, in a roundabout way, that woman, and I feared emotional overload, a reading experience too close to home to be comfortable. Yet read I did, and how glad I am that I ignored any niggling "Oh, it will depress you," and "Do you REALLY want to go there?" thoughts. This book is anything but depressing, and is, in fact, everything that contemporary fiction should be: Thought-provoking, intelligent, unique, and unforgettable.

Meister deftly leads the reader from a world of domestic conventionality into one of surrealistic normalcy (for lack of a better term), and does so with careful pacing and subtle whispers as opposed to a heavy-handed dose of "weirdifying for the sake of being weird" a lesser author might employ. The cast of robust, three-dimensional characters -- all of whom seemed so real to me, I could picture their laugh lines, hear their voices -- are a delight to know, and beautifully wrought with endearing quirks, witticisms, compassion, and an imperfect humanness that touches the soul.

And the last paragraph in the book is killer. Killer.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Rachel Kramer Bussel VINE VOICE on March 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Spoilers. I am not usually the type to read fiction involving other worlds, but after reading Susan Henderson's interview with Ellen Meister at The Nervous Breakdown, I was intrigued by the premise of Quinn being able to see into other lives. There were some parts of the plot that I had a little trouble following, but the main sequence, of Quinn's life with Lewis, versus the life she could have had with Eugene, was gripping. Meister paints a world where somehow it makes a twisted kind of sense for her to be able to leap between each world, and I had to wonder if perhaps Eugene had been a better boyfriend if her decision might have been more challenging.

There are certainly characters here who are hard to cozy up to; for all Quinn's love for and devotion to her mother, the reader is left with a picture of a woman who is in some ways selfless, and in some ways selfish. Which, of course, is perfectly natural, except I still wanted Nan to be better, and while Quinn ultimately forgives her for her tragic choice, it was harder for me to. There was a part of me that wished the story had ended differently, though I suspected what I thought Quinn would do. The complications with her pregnancy lend the book a somewhat tragic air, though there are moments of levity, such as her neighbor Georgette, who's having a cyber affair, her brother and his boyfriend's ongoing relationship ups and downs, and her visits, in her other life, to places like Fiji.

Meister has created a moving look at one woman's struggle between the present and the past and there were many layers of action and history happening all at once. That Quinn could see and travel into more than one alternate world was hard to wrap my brain around at times, but the visceral descriptions of her passage from one world to the other, her disorientation and yet also ease in the other life, were done wonderfully. Highly recommended.
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