Saturday, 15 September 2012


Gabrielle Zevin
London, Bloomsbury, 2005, 269p

A book that begins with a death is always a tear-jerker. This was no exception. But maybe I am just an emotional wreck.

The first chapter of this book, entitled "In the End", documents Liz waking up on a ship. She doesn't know how she got there or where she is going. Of course, those who may have skim-read the blurb will guess that this is Liz's afterlife.

I have read many different concepts of the afterlife, from the ghosts in The Graveyard Book to the self-made world of Susie in The Lovely Bones. But this was different. Zevin's concept of the afterlife is that you live life backwards, from the day of your death until your birth, at which point you float back to Earth to be born again. This means that fifteen year old Liz meets her grandmother in Elsewhere, who has aged backwards since her death and is little older than Liz herself.

This aging backwards concept can cause some drama. For example, is it appropriate for a relationship to develop between fifteen year old Liz and twenty-six year old Owen - even if Owen has aged backwards to his teen years? Somehow, Zevin made it acceptable, suggesting Liz and Owen had their own doubts, which they overcame through open discussion about their feelings.

I feel like this book would really help me through a bereavement. The thought that our loved ones can use Observation Telescopes, like the ones at the beach, to see us and be near us. I like the idea that life carries on after death, and, as the blurb states, "new relationships are formed and old ones, which had been sadly interrupted, are renewed". The concept of Elsewhere provides a calming effect to the disruptive nature of death.

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