The Other Life by Ellen Meister

We’re taking a break today from the Celebrate! Indie & Small Press Month for a pre-scheduled TLC Book Tour into another world.

The Other Life by Ellen Meister chronicles the life of Quinn Braverman, a young married woman with one son and a caring husband, Lewis.  The suicide of her artist mother haunts her on a daily basis, but to cope, she enters into another life through a portal in her basement.  Her life with Eugene is without children and marriage, but is less mundane and best of all her mother is still alive.  Meister mixes a modern story line about family, suicide, and relationships with science fiction elements as Quinn travels through portals into parallel lives.

“But the important part of the secret — the part that terrified and thrilled her — was that she knew it was possible to cross from one life to the other.  There were portals.”  (page 5 of ARC)

Quinn’s life with Lewis is turned upside down when they learn that their unborn daughter’s life will not be as perfect as they imagined.  Although she’s always known that she could jump between her parallel lives, she has promised herself that she would not do it.  A promise that she cannot keep, and a promise that is quickly broken time and time again as she struggles to deal with her high-risk pregnancy, her inability to seek comfort from her mother, and the overwhelming desire to simply escape.

“She closed her hand into a fist and continued pushing.  The fissure became a hole, and the harder she pressed, the deeper it became, until her hand had disappeared up to her elbow.  She stuck her other hand inside and pressed her palms together.  Quinn closed her eyes and sensed Eugene’s energy, feeling as if the scent of his aftershave were lingering around her nostrils.”  (page 47 of ARC)

Readers who have read Linda Gray Sexton’s memoir about the legacy of suicide Half in Love (click for my review), will notice Quinn has a similar love-hate relationship with her mother and the legacy of suicide.  Her mother, Nan, has a similar artistic and impassioned charisma that Linda’s mother, Anne Sexton, had.  It is this combination that draws in the reader and the main character into Nan’s world of painting and deconstruction of her family in visual form.  Passages pepper the book with insight into Nan’s approach to her family and her work as an artist, but this pull doesn’t stop there.

“Her mother’s pull was just too strong for Quinn to float away and feel as if she were experiencing the shopping trip as an outsider looking in.”  (page 95 of ARC)

Drawn to her mother and a life where her presence is reassuring, Quinn struggles even more with her present life, and her brother’s inherited bipolar disorder only exacerbate her need for stability, which she believes can only be found in another life.  Meister does an excellent job of creating a sympathetic, mess of a character in Quinn and successfully weaves in the use of portals to demonstrate her anxiety.

Quinn is a mother wrought with anxiety, loneliness, and a forceful need to care for everyone in her life.  She’s constantly running from one crisis to another with her sword blazing, and while readers can feel for her and want her world to be right again, she can be frustrating as she jumps through portals to escape the hard decisions in her other life.  Overall, Meister’s writing is engaging, suspenseful, and easy to follow even as readers travel with Quinn between her two lives.  Readers hope that she will find the peace she is looking for and the love that she deserves, while at the same time confronting her past demons and moving into the future as a more confident woman and mother.  The Other Life by Ellen Meister would make an excellent book club selection.

About the Author:

Ellen Meister lives on Long Island with her husband and three children.

You can find out more about Ellen at her website, and you can also follow her blog and on Twitter.



Please check out the rest of the stops on the tour.




This is my 8th book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.


  1. Stephanie says

    I love your review! Even though I didn’t quite like this book as much as you did, I think you explained the premise so well!!

  2. I can imagine that this would be a great book club pick! I’d like to say that I’d of course choose the life I have now (were I given the choice) but it’s hard to say that for sure, you know?

    Thanks for being on this tour Serena!

  3. The premise definitely intrigued me and I esp like your comparison with Linda Gray Sexton’s writings on suicide. But I so hated The Time Traveler’s Wife I’m a little worried I’m not so open to sci-fi-ish elements like I thought? Regardless, you’ve got me curious now!

    • I have not read The Time Traveler’s Wife. But I thought of the portals more as a means for the main character to escape tough decisions, rather than more conventional methods, such as sleeping around, etc.

  4. I am also on this tour, but my review doesn’t post until mid-month. I had some issues with the book but found it quite readable.

    • I really just let it flow for me and tried not to think to analytically with this one. I know there are certain issues with the book, especially dealing with the portals, but I kind of ignored those when I was reading.

  5. What a unique premise! Sounds pretty interesting! I’m with Kathy – it would be nice!

  6. This sounds fascinating! I think it would be all too tempting to escape to another life at times, if we had that option.

  7. Sounds like a very interesting book. Loved your review!!

  8. Beth Hoffman says

    We have similar tastes, so I’m sure I will!

  9. Beth Hoffman says

    Terrific review, Serena. I have this book and now I’m eager to crack the spine.

  10. Sounds like this could be very interesting. Maybe I will read it at some point.

  11. these really seems like one I’d enjoy; nice review Serena.

  12. I am curious about this book. Thanks for the review!


  1. The Other Life {#Book Review} | The Book Faery Reviews says:

    […] Thursday, March 3rd: Savvy Verse & Wit […]

  2. […] Thursday, March 3rd: Savvy Verse & Wit […]