Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Other Life - Ellen Meister

In Ellen Meister's newest novel,  The Other Life, the reader is introduced to Quinn, a suburbanite and wife to Lewis and mother to Isaac and (unborn baby) Naomi, who is able to do something many of us have undoubtedly pondered at one point or another - Quinn is able to travel through a portal in her current life to live her "other life."  In this "other life," Quinn chose to stay with her boyfriend, Eugene, and is living the life in posh Manhattan.  Additionally, whereas in this life, Quinn's mother is deceased, in the "other life," Quinn's mother is very much alive.  It is this fact that propels Quinn to continue making the journey between lives. However, with each additional passage, the journey between this life and the other becomes increasingly difficult and the portal between lives continues to close more and more.  Towards the end of the story - Quinn is faced with a decision to live either one life or the other, and it is at this cross point, that I feel the story truly peaks and Meister's storytelling talent clearly shines through. 

A quick read, simply because you just cannot put it down, the cover asks the reader - "What if you could return to the road not taken?" And it is this exact question that this blog entry is going to focus upon.  How many of us have thought of this question before at least once in the past few years.  Each and every day people make choices.  Whether it's a larger choice like the decision to marry or have children, or a smaller, more minute choice, like what to have for breakfast or what route to take to work, each and every single choice has a series of effects that follow it - and the question remains what if you had chosen the other?  In The Other Life Meister tackles that larger choice of life partnership, but let's face it - almost every choice has a distinct path that could potentially take your life in a whole different direction.  Take for example the minuscule choice of what to have for breakfast. 

Option A - You have your cereal at home, shower, get dressed, go to work, yadda yadda yadda.

Option B - You decide to splurge and head down to the local Starbucks (I'm in no way promoting Starbucks, just know that everyone has a local one ;) haha).  You order your coffee, bagel, sit down and as your reading the obituary section look up and lock eyes with Mr. Right.  He comes and sits across from you, you have the most engaging conversation you've had in awhile and then exchange Facebook accounts before heading out the door to work.

I know it's a little over the top - but it's true!  Life is like one of those "Choose Your Own Adventure" novels that you can read a hundred times and have a different story each time.  The only difference is that unlike those novels, you can't live life a hundred times over.  I suppose there are some situations in which you can go back and "do things over," in some sense, but you can't go back and change what's happened in the past.  Everyone must live with the choices that they have made.

This isn't to say that it isn't okay to occasionally sit and ponder the question"What if?"

I look at my dog sometimes (usually when she is in one of her "cute" moments - which is like 99.9% of the time haha) and couldn't imagine my life without her.  Yet, I almost didn't get her due to life circumstances at the time.  What if ... I never adopted my pup?  I think my life would be drastically different.  For starters, I would be coming home an empty house each day after work - no one would be running down the hallway and drifting around the breakfast bar to come jump at me.  I would also probably be cold on those frigid Chicago nights when I don't have a real-life Yorkichon scarf around my head and neck.  Most of all, though, I would miss her companionship.  I wouldn't have someone to snuggle with me and need me like she does.  She is definitely a great choice that I made in my life and I am absolutely ecstatic that everything worked out for the best at the time so that I could adopt her. (Shout-out: I love you to bits, little monster!)

Then there are the times where I think about some of the bigger choices I have made, like my choice in college.  The main basis of my choice in university was their excellent teacher education program.  In my 4-year experience, many major life events and experiences transpired.  What if ... I chose a different university?  Would life be different?  Of course! If I chose to go elsewhere at 18, I don't know if I would be living in Chicago.  I wouldn't have my dog in my life. I'm not sure if I would be with my boyfriend.  I don't even know if I would be sitting here writing this blog at the moment!  There are so many factors that play in to every single decision - large or small.

On the same note,  it's unhealthy if always wondering "What if?" takes over your life and you're left questioning and doubting every single decision that you make.  So, I guess the moral of the story is this:

"Be wise in the decisions that you make, but make sure to live your life without regret."

Excellent job, Ms. Meister!  A fun summer read turned out to be quite the "thinker."  I hope to see more from you in the future ...

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