Elsewhere (A Book Review)

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Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin is a fiction feast of horror, fantasy, and mystery. After reading her previous novel, Saint X, it is clear that Schaitkin knows how to convey a strong sense of place and write about disappearances.

The story is told from the perspective of Vera, a woman who grows from childhood to womanhood within a strange, closed community set in the mountains, possibly the Alps. Everything has German-sounding names.

These people are afraid of anything or anyone from “elsewhere”, as they refer to the rest of the world. Not only people, animals too. They’re afraid of the clouds. And they live under an affliction: the mysterious disappearances of mothers. They never know when “the clouds” will take a mother, and they know how to erase her from the community’s memory once she is gone. You can feel the heavy menace of the townsfolk appearing to support mothers, yet completely judging them for every perceived misstep.

Follow Vera from before her mother disappears, till afterward when she lives alone with her father, the troubling relationship with a stranger, Ruth, and then on to her marriage and motherhood. We really feel all the deep emotions that accompany becoming a mother and loving one’s child, the temptation of allowing oneself to be absorbed by, and to lose one’s sense of self, to be replaced by a non-entity that only serves the child.

This is a hauntingly beautiful story of mothers and daughters, of all the phases of becoming, holding on, and letting go that accompany parenthood. I highly recommend that anyone who read or watched ‘The Lost Daughter’ read Elsewhere as well. (Also, as someone married to an illustrator, kudos to Celadon for what appears to be an illustrated rather than a photoshopped cover.) Publishing date is June 28, 2022, so preorder yours wherever you order books.

*I received an Advanced Reading Copy of ‘Elsewhere’ from Celadon Books in exchange for my honest review.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s City of Girls (A Review)

Like many other Liz Gilbert readers, I couldn’t wait for the release of the novel City of Girls. Whenever Liz mentioned City of Girls on Instagram, she said it was going to be lighthearted and fun; she said it was going to involve theatre and showgirls; she said it would involve plenty of sex.

City of Girls has all of those elements and much more. The novel is written from the perspective of Vivian, a woman in her nineties, who looks back over her life from age nineteen and on. She writes about arriving in New York City in 1940 and experiencing a very different kind of life from the one she had previously known: sheltered, stuffy, unimaginative. She gets to know all sorts of colorful characters and lives wild and carefree for a time.

As the story unfolds, she makes and loses friends, survives scandal, lives through WW2, fashions a successful and creative career for herself, and, as she lives all these experiences, she learns to know who she is.

I loved the descriptions of old theaters and night clubs, the fashion of the various decades in which Vivian lives, the energy of New York City and how it changed over the years. Overall, the tone is positive, light, and joyful. But, if you’re worried, as I was, that the book is just fluff, think again. There is substance here. There are passages that I will read and reread. Oprah read one during her interview with Liz Gilbert on Super Soul Sunday. And here is words of wisdom from Vivian’s aunt, Peg, that resonated with me: (on page 327)

“You must learn in life to take things more lightly, my dear. The world is always changing. Learn how to allow for it. Someone makes a promise, and then they break it. A play gets good notices, and then it folds. A marriage looks strong, and then they divorce. For a while there’s no war, and then there’s another war. If you get too upset about it all, you become a stupid, unhappy person—and where’s the good in that?”

So, am I going to recommend this novel? Yes! If you’re a reader of fiction, add this to your TBR. Buy a copy or place a hold at your library, but definitely read it. Particularly, I think it’s an important read for women because it’s a story of strong women who lived unusual, successful, and satisfying lives.

And when you read it, comment here, send me an email or DM me on Instagram and let me know what you think!