Berg’s Book Club – Elsewhere

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Elsewhere took me only a few hours to read,  and I am not the fastest reader. It is written by  Gabrielle Zevin and is aimed at children. However, I feel the book can be enjoyed by all ages.

Here is a short synopsis.

Fifteen-year-old Liz Hall is in Elsewhere. The place is where people end up after they have died, it mirrors the earth – only people age backwards until they are a baby again.

I feel that this is a great concept on death – returning to earth has been done before – some religions believe resurrections after all, but I love the idea of getting younger again. However, Liz (Elizabeth Hall) who is close to being able to learn to drive and graduating high school doesn’t like the idea of ageing backwards.

While I love the story and find the use of language ideal for children, I do feel that Zevin tells too much of what the characters think. There are parts of the narrative where this works really well, like when the story is told from the point of view of Lucy, Liz’s pug on earth, but there are times when it is too much and tells the emotions of the human characters rather than shows them. The book is targeted to eleven— fourteen-year-olds and so I feel a little more showing would have made the writing more interesting. However, I feel the book can still be enjoyed despite this.

I found the book a quick read, one that can be finished in half a day or less.

The characters are also believable

Liz Hall struggles to accept that she died at the age of fifteen. In fact, during the transition period, where all the recently dead are on the SS Nile, she believes that she is dreaming. Even when she accepts she is dead, she doesn’t accept that she cannot return but learns that contact with the living is not good for either the people she cares about or herself.

Liz faces challenges such as addiction. The addiction is to binoculars that allow her to see the living for five minutes an eternium (the currency in elsewhere) and this leads her to needing 24 coins a day. The binoculars hinder Liz more than help her as they hold her link to earth and allows her to use the binoculars to live her life through the lives of her friends and family the first month she is there.

Her grandmother worries but tries to give her space until she expects that Liz is going to make contact with the living. Her grandmother tries hard to connect with Liz but as she is not good with children, she struggles to find the right balance between friend and grandmother.

Eventually, Liz accepts that she is dead and lives her life in Elsewhere. As a character, Liz grows and matures despite ageing backwards, she even experiences her first love – something she thought wouldn’t happen after she had died – and gets a job as a domestic pet counsellor, the animals can talk in Elsewhere, which leads to the adoption of Sexy Sandie.

Owen Welles is her love interest. He died around ten years before Liz at the age of twenty-eight, leaving behind Emily, his wife. Liz dislikes him at first because he stops her second attempt at making contact with the living and shows her the consequences of her actions.

I won’t tell you what happens – it’s a great and lovely book and I recommend you read it.

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