About the Book:
Vera grows up in a small town, removed and isolated, pressed up against the mountains, cloud-covered and damp year-round. This town, fiercely protective, brutal and unforgiving in its adherence to tradition, faces a singular affliction: some mothers vanish, disappearing into the clouds. It is the exquisite pain and intrinsic beauty of their lives; it sets them apart from people elsewhere and gives them meaning.
Vera, a young girl when her own mother went, is on the cusp of adulthood herself. As her peers begin to marry and become mothers, they speculate about who might be the first to go, each wondering about her own fate. Reveling in their gossip, they witness each other in motherhood, waiting for signs: this one devotes herself to her child too much, this one not enough—that must surely draw the affliction’s gaze. When motherhood comes for Vera, she is faced with the question: will she be able to stay and mother her beloved child, or will she disappear?
Provocative and hypnotic, Alexis Schaitkin’s Elsewhere is at once a spellbinding revelation and a rumination on the mysterious task of motherhood and all the ways in which a woman can lose herself to it; the self-monitoring and judgment, the doubts and unknowns, and the legacy she leaves behind.
“A mother was a chance to hate someone as much as you loved them, caring and wounding, a push and pull that only tightened the knot that bound you.”
Beautiful. Hypnotic. Thought-provoking. Those are my immediate feelings after finishing this book. I love speculative fiction, so I jumped at the chance to read this very imaginative story. I’m also a huge fan of the author’s earlier book ‘Saint X’. And this cover has got to be one of the most amazing book covers I’ve ever seen!
I wavered between rating this one 3 stars or 5 stars. That is the kind of gut reaction I had to this dark story. I settled on 4 stars because the author is without a doubt a brilliant writer. Some of the scenes and characters felt a little one-dimensional but I still highly recommend this book.
The relationship between a mother and daughter can be the most important and also the most emotionally fraught relationship a woman will ever have. I actually said “a-ha!” to myself at the conclusion of this book. The plot is incredible and almost dream-like, as is the fictional Alpine setting. You never know what year or decade it is, but many of the habits and the phrases seem like they are from a long-gone era.
The disappearance of some women once they become mothers is commonly known as “the affliction” and the villagers simply accept it. In fact, they celebrate it. Where do the young women go? If you like books like ‘The Lottery’ and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ then you will love this one. I read it in one sitting and I’m still thinking about it days later. This is a fascinating take on a dystopian society.
“You do not get to keep what is sweetest to you; you only get to remember it from the vantage point of having lost it.”
(Many thanks to the publisher for the opportunity to read Elsewhere. All opinions are my own)