Life After Death: Elizabeth Marie Hall's Story

Gabrielle Zevin, Elsewhere. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005.

external image n144568.jpg "Even though she feels remarkably awake, she knows she is dreaming," Zevin writes about Liz, the protagonist of her story. Though Liz believes she is dreaming, she soon finds out that she is in fact dead and travelling to a place called Elsewhere. Liz is soon faced with the challenge of coping with life after death, and learning some important lessons along the way.

Liz is a fifteen year old girl with her whole life ahead of her, until she is hit by a cab on her way to the mall one day. Liz wakes up aboard a cruise ship named the SS Nile, and after checking out her surroundings she comes to the conclusion that she must be dreaming. Once Liz has arrived in Elsewhere, a place that is remarkably similar to Earth, she meets her grandmother for the first time. Liz notices that her grandmother, whose name is Betty, looks young enough to be her mother. Liz asks Betty many questions, but Betty tells her that she will soon understand how Elsewhere works once she goes to her acclimation appointment. At her acclimation appointment Liz learns that Elsewhere is very much life Earth, with a few exceptions, including the fact that people age backwards.

Liz does not warm up to Elsewhere very easily. She spends all her time (and much of her grandmother's money) using the OD's (Observation Decks) to watch the people back on earth. Liz even attempts to find a way back to Earth. After a while Liz begins to adjust to life on Elsewhere and she even finds and job working with animals, and makes some very special friends.

Gabrielle Zevin's Elsewhere tackles the big issue of coping with death. Here story gives an interesing point of view on the issue of death. Most stories we read of movies we see show how the families and friends of the deceased mourn and cope. Zevin's story shows us the point of view of the deceased, and how she (Liz) copes with her own death. The issue of death can be a very touchy one in the sense that the mourning process is different for everyone. Nobody mourns in the same way, and Zevin gives the readers hope that there is a place to go after death that is somewhat like home. It takes away the fear of the unknown and replaces it with a sense of hope.

The story also deals with other issues that we are all undoubtedly faced with at one time or another. The first is the issue of love versus loyalty. In the story Liz falls in love with a boy named Owen, and even though he loves her back he becomes torn when his wife (who was back on earth) ends up in Elsewhere. When Owen finds out his wife has arrived he says to Liz "I do love you, but I met her first. I'm not sure what to do, what's right" (192). Owen struggles with his love for both women, and the loyalty he has to his wife.

One other issue that the story deals with is the idea of making choices. Liz (as well as some of the other characters) is faced with many choices throughout the book. She has to chose whether or not to keep obsessing over her family and friends on Earth or to get on with her life (or rather death). She also has to chose whether or not to stay in Elsewhere until she is reborn, or to leave early. The choices that the characters have to make are not easy ones, and in a way their problems and decisions can help readers work through their own problems and come to their own decisions.

Recommendations for Teachers
Gabrielle Zevin's Elsewhere is a good book to use in the classroom because it deals with very real issues that students will most likely face at some point in their lives. Death is inevitable and helping students cope can be difficult to do. Zevin gives the readers a place of solitude in her book, and even though it is not real it still gives us hope. Most people need to believe that their loved ones as well as themselves are going to be happy and content in the afterlife, and imagining a place that is similar to home may help lessen the fear of death. Zevin shows us that the end it not easy and that letting go is even harder through the character Liz. She shows us that process of mourning and eventually coping, and she does it the voice of a teenager. Through this voice students may be able to understand and relate, especially if they have lost someone they love.

Though death, mourning, and coping seem to be the main points of the book, there are other issues addressed. Love for instance is something that teenager's want and hope to find. In the book Liz dies before she can ever experience first love. However, she is given a second chance to experience it on Elsewhere. Love is tricky, and messy, and hopefully wonderful. Zevin shows us exactly that it is through the relationships Liz has on Elsewhere with her grandmother Betty, her new found best friend Thandie, her boyfriend Owen, her rockstar friend Curtis, and of course her pets. Zevin gives us a taste of how love can be and readers can relate the the issues that Liz faces in her relationships, which will in turn help students face their own issues with love.

Zevin's story also shows the characters struggles with making the right choices, and this issue can be a big help with teenage students because making the right choices isn't also the easiest thing for them to do. By showing us the trials and of course errors made of the characters, Zevin helps the students realize that they are not alone when it comes to doing the right thing. Readers will see that in the end the characters eventually make the right decisions and this will help them in their times of need.

Though there are many different issues addressed in Gabrielle Zevin's story one stands out most, and it is that life is short and the unimaginable can happen. Students will see that anything can happen to alter their lives or the lives of others and that living everyday to its fullest is really the only way to live. Because no one wants to die regretting that they didn't live the way they wanted to.

About Gabrielle Zevin

Born in 1977 in New York City, where she also currently resides, Gabrielle Zevin has been interested in reading and writing throughout her entire life. She has written three books, titled Margarettown, Elsewhere, and Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac. She has also produced a film, titled Conversations with Other Women, which was been nominated for an Independent Spirit Award in 2007. Her book, Elsewhere, was nominated for a few awards as well, such as the Quill Award in 2006 and the Borders Original Voices award.

Home made video done for a school girl's video book report, based on Gabrielle Zevin's Elsewhere. It takes a look at what Liz left behind and feels like
a memorial video for the character in Gabrielle Zevin's book.

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