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Book Club Kits: Elsewhere

Alamance County Public Libraries offer Book Club Kits for check out to area book clubs. Each kit contains 10 copies of a book and a reading guide.

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Book Summary

Welcome to Elsewhere. It is warm, with a breeze, and the beaches are marvelous. It’s quiet and peaceful. You can’t get sick or any older. Curious to see new paintings by Picasso? Swing by one of Elsewhere’s museums. Need to talk to someone about your problems? Stop by Marilyn Monroe’s psychiatric practice.

Elsewhere is where fifteen-year-old Liz Hall ends up, after she has died. It is a place so like Earth, yet completely different. Here Liz will age backward from the day of her death until she becomes a baby again and returns to Earth. But Liz wants to turn sixteen, not fourteen again. She wants to get her driver’s license. She wants to graduate from high school and go to college. And now that she’s dead, Liz is being forced to live a life she doesn’t want with a grandmother she has only just met. And it is not going well. How can Liz let go of the only life she has ever known and embrace a new one? Is it possible that a life lived in reverse is no different from a life lived forward?

This moving, often funny book about grief, death, and loss will stay with the reader long after the last page is turned.

Discussion Questions

  • How long does a dream have to last before it’s just life?’ (page 21). For a long time Liz is convinced that she is dreaming. Whendoes she realise that she won’t wake up, and what makes her realize it? How does she react when she finds out?

  • Much of Liz's initial anger at finding herself in Elsewhere is that her future plans are canceled and she will age in reverse. What future events are you most looking forward to? How would you feel about aging in reverse?

  • There are many characters who are part of the story of Elsewhere, all of them are critical to it. No characters, not even the canine ones, are minor to the story. Explore how the characters move the novel forward. How does each of them help Liz adjust to life on Elsewhere and come to understand that life on Elsewhere is something to be cherished?

  • ‘”Dead”, Aldous says “is little more than a state of mind. Many people on Earth spend their whole lives dead”’ (page 83). What do you think Aldous means by this? What is the effect of Liz’s obsession with the Observation Deck on her new life? What finally prompts her to let go of her old life? If you were in Liz's shoes, would it be easy or hard for you to acclimate?

  • How different is Elsewhere from Earth? Are there any improvements? Liz makes a list of the four things she most misses about Earth. What would be on your list if you found yourself in Elsewhere?

  • Liz and all the other arrivals in Elsewhere are encouraged to find an avocation to pursue during their time there. Ghent explains to Liz that an avocation is something that makes one's soul complete (page 74). Some of the residents of Elsewhere work in avocations similar to the jobs they did on Earth; others have new ones. Marilyn Monroe becomes a psychiatrist. Curtis Jest decides to be a fisherman and comments that John Lennon is a gardener. How do the avocations of Monroe, Lennon, Owen, Betty, Curtis, and other characters reflect what they really want out of their new lives? What would you chose as an avocation?

  • If you had been Liz, would you have taken the Sneaker Clause? Why or why not?

  • How does Zevin inject humor into what could be a very sad story? Why does she use humor to tell this story?

  • How does life in Elsewhere change Liz?

  • Why do you think Zevin chose to call her novel Elsewhere? How appropriate did you find the title and why? Could the place she describes be called ‘heaven’, ‘paradise’ or something else, and if so what?