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Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin
June 2006

I've always secretly believed that my pets could understand everything I said, and that it was my own ignorance of their language which made meaningful communication a problem. It seems Gabrielle Zevin has a similar inkling, since her latest book (just published in paperback) opens with a moving account of a dog's reaction to her teenage owner's death, and its frustration at not being understood by the remaining members of the family. My heart was immediately won over by this touching prologue, which sets the tone for what becomes a magical, philosophical and tender interpretation of the Afterlife.

Following the post-death journey of a teenage girl, Liz, who is killed in a hit-and-run accident, Elsewhere's title refers to a kind of alternative heaven in which people age backwards and eventually start all over again, coming back to Earth as babies. On arriving in Elsewhere, Liz goes through the inevitable stages of denial, bitterness and desperation before coming to accept her new (non)life. She finds her niche as a dog warden (people in Elsewhere have 'Avocations' rather than jobs) and discovers she has a natural gift for speaking canine.

A far cry from other prescriptive and clich�d (and often religiously weighted) metaphorical novels on death, Zevin has created an inspiring fantasy that encourages light-hearted contemplation on what would normally be a gloomy subject. Her airy, fluent prose conjures a dream-like, expectant atmosphere, and her engaging characters literally bring death to life. Elsewhere has all the ingredients of a classic teenage rites-of-passage, but with an elegant, original twist that sets it apart from the rest.

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This page contains a single entry by Rowan Stanfield Miller published on July 13, 2006 11:04 PM.

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