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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.