Alexis Schaitkin (Saint X) creates a chilling, mesmeric world in Elsewhere, a novel that questions motherhood, community ties and individual agency. The village at its heart and the options of a larger world will stick with readers long after the final page.
"We lived high above the rest of the world. Our town sat in the narrow aperture between mountains, the mountains forested, the forests impenetrable." Vera has grown up in this setting, in a town with unknown origins but strict rules. Every girl there lives in anticipation of becoming a mother, which carries the greatest risk and reward the village knows, because some mothers will stay and some mothers disappear: "One minute she was here, as solid and real as any of us, the next her body faded, faded, until she vanished into the clouds. Gone."
Vera's mother went when she was a small child, and Vera spends her youth wondering what kind of mother she might possibly be without a mother of her own to guide her, if it's possible that she can be a mother at all. Her obsession echoes that of all the townspeople, who thrill at guessing which mother will be next, and what makes the difference between one who stays and one who goes. So when motherhood indeed comes for Vera, the town's affliction haunts her in a new way.
Elsewhere is unsettling, thought-provoking and lushly detailed, a memorable inquiry about attachments to place and to family, and what happens when a person has to choose between her family and herself. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia