A poster hung in my high school English classroom stating the obvious: “Not to decide is to decide.” At least I thought it was obvious back then. Like many teenagers, I already I knew everything. When one of the girls in my high school delayed having an abortion until she was seven months gone, she found it was too late when she went to the clinic. Her failure to decide forced the decision. She had the baby that summer and didn’t go back for her senior year. The next time I stepped into the English classroom and read the poster, I realized the obvious is often masked by its simplicity. Decisions—whether we make them consciously or they’re made when we fail to choose—live with us forever. This week in #litchat we’re discussing novels with themes of do-overs and decisions.
Ellen Meister joins us Friday, June 10, as guest host of #litchat. Her new novel, The Other Life, asks the question, “What if you could return to the road not taken?” Quinn Braverman faces that question when she discovers she can slip through a portal into a parallel life that seems only to exist when she enters. Drawn from the choice she didn’t make, it’s a life where loved ones now gone still live and speak and give answers, where the excruciating decision overshadowing her real life will simply not exist. Most compelling of all, it’s a do-over life as real as the one she leaves behind, tempting and seductive and safe. Pure escape. While Meister’s first two novels showcased her comedic talents, and The Other Life has moments of humor, its power comes from the hard choices facing Quinn, not just the struggle to stay in her authentic life, but the inevitable decision that shapes her future.
Meister is the author of two other novels, The Smart One and Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA, as well as numerous short stories. In addition to writing, she served as editor for a literary magazine, runs an online mentoring group for women authors, and curates for DimeStories, a literary radio program. Ellen does public speaking about her books and other writing-related issues. She is working on her fourth novel, Farewell, Dorothy Parker. She lives on Long Island with her husband and three children.
Follow Ellen Meister on Twitter: @EllenMeister.