Another Life Altogether
By Elaine Beale
(Spiegel & Grau, Hardcover, 9780385530040, 416pp.)
Publication Date: February 23, 2010
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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A keenly observed depiction of the effects of a mother’s mental illness on her young daughter, Another Life Altogether is a profoundly moving, funny, and ultimately heartrending coming-of-age story.
After years of living in the shadow of her mother’s mental illness, Jesse Bennett is given a fresh chance at happiness when her family moves to a village in northern England. But just as it seems that she might be able to build a perfect life for herself after befriending two of her new school’s most popular girls, her mother’s worsening mental state and the secret Jesse fiercely guards about herself threaten to destroy her fragile stability. Caught in the storm of her mother’s moods, her father’s desperation, and her classmates’ strict adherence to cruel social hierarchies, Jesse is forced to choose between doing what’s right and preserving her long-held hope for a normal life.
At the heart of a maddening, eccentric, and ultimately lovable family—from her manic mother and her long-suffering father to her blowsy Aunt Mabel and her Uncle Ted, a comically inept criminal—Jesse is an utterly sympathetic narrator who navigates the ups and downs of adolescence with insight, emotional vulnerability, and a wickedly sharp sense of humor. Alternately hilarious and heartbreaking, Another Life Altogether marks the arrival of an immensely gifted novelist.
Elaine Beale is the winner of the 2007 Poets & Writers California Writers Exchange contest for a partial draft of this novel. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in several anthologies. Originally from England, she has lived for the past twenty years in Oakland, California.
"Another Life Altogether captivated me from the very first page. Dazzling in its authenticity and utterly absorbing, it is an uplifting story about adolescence, family, and finding one’s place in the world. With the character of Jesse Bennett, Elaine Beale manages to create hope and humor in an otherwise turbulent world. It is a rare, insightful, and gorgeously written novel."—Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants
"Elaine Beale is an extraordinary writer, and Another Life Altogether is heartbreaking and hilarious all at once, as only life can be."—Sandra Cisneros
"Sparkling…Beale [reveals] a mature talent with a sharp eye for both the intricacies of the surface detail and the complexities of the inner life…[She] reminds us that writing, always potentially dangerous, also confers grace, and that with the power of the word, we all have the potential to become the heroines of our own lives."—Boston Globe
“Another Life Altogether is an extraordinary true-to-life book, and Beale tells a number of important and poignant stories all at once with great skill.” — Feminist Review
“One of the most satisfying aspects of Another Life Altogether is how well-executed the plot and climax are; the second half of the book… is fast-paced and engaging…. Ultimately, Another Life Altogether is about the power of speaking the truth… Beale handles these moments of truth-telling with grace and aplomb; that is the reason to read, and enjoy, Another Life Altogether.” — Lambada Literary