Quinn Braverman doesn’t have to wonder “what if?”; as a girl, she found a portal to an alternate reality in which she had made opposite decisions, and could see them play out. As an adult struggling with a difficult pregnancy, she makes the choice to cross over into her parallel life for the first time, away from her loving husband and 6-year-old son Isaac to a life in which she isn’t pregnant and is living glamorously with her needy, semi-famous ex-boyfriend. What she finds there, outside of a trip to the Fiji Islands and the eventual proposal she hadn’t expected, is her bipolar artist mother, whom she’d lost to suicide in her real life.
The Other Life by Ellen Meister (The Smart One, Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA) becomes a resonant story about the importance of mothers, both having one and being one. As the portal to her other life closes, Quinn has to decide whether to live as a mother to Isaac and her unborn daughter, who may have a risky birth defect, or live a life in which her mother, for whom she has several unanswered questions, still lives.
Quinn’s shattering decision about whether to keep or abort her pregnancy is the first life-or-death choice she’ll have made, and already she’s noticed that a tiny portal has begun to open to an alternate life for her unborn child. Meister treats Quinn and her husband’s realistic abortion discussions with practicality and respect, rendering it difficult even for the reader to choose a side.
The choices in this novel are heartbreaking, and thoughtfully show the value of a mother’s support, guidance, steadfast love and sacrifices. How Quinn decides she’ll live at the novel’s close and with whom is never obvious, making for a riveting tale of love and choices.
Meister’s provocative novel asks the question: What impossible decision would you make, with the knowledge that choosing one life meant the other would die?