>>First published on netgalley.com<<
The Other World is a novel described by the author, Abbie Emmons, as ‘a romantic/literary fiction…’
The book will be released on the 19th Of September, 2023.
It’s a romantic, coming-of-age story set up in the Pacific Northwest of the early 90s. It follows the lives of Orca, and her reclusive father, who both live in a lighthouse on an island, avoiding the outside world, which her father describes as ‘full of danger and darkness.’
With a false history of her mother, and a glimpse into the existence of the other world through her father’s reflections, Orca is obsessed with curiosity and a sense of adventure to experience what is in the other world, despite her father’s fears and determination to protect her from it.
When Orca turns 18, against her father’s wishes, she decides she wants to experience the other world, willing to risk all that has been part of her simple, self-sufficient life on the Island.
Opportunity presents itself when Orca finds a “strange” device that brings two other-worlders, Jack and Adams, into her life and then…everybody is emotionally tested to their very core in various ways.
The Other World is a story of adventure, infatuation, love, family secrets, rivalry, and forgiveness. I can say the story is about losing oneself to find oneself in more important ways.
There are many things I like about the novel, and a few things that I think could have been better handled.
Let’s start off with what I like: the title. The Other World carries within itself the intended mystery and, or suspense, I believe the author intended for it to have. I am driven by a vicarious curiousity to find out what will become of Orca, when she gets to the other world.
I find the title poetic.
Orca’s obsession to explore the other world (her goal) and her father’s obsession to protect his one and only daughter (Orca’s opposition) are quite relatable – a beautiful conflict is what you have there. And there are so much more conflicts both internal and involving the other characters.
Even though I have never lived on an Island before or been in the Pacific Northwest, I like the nostalgic ambience the story brings to mind through the beautiful descriptions of the author. A reader need not to have lived in such a place before, to enjoy the author’s description of the beautiful glasshouse, lightning, thunder storms and the whole beautiful scenery and uniqueness of the Island.
From beginning of the novel, after the prologue, it looks like we are on to a spooky adventurous journey through the eyes of Orca and her dog, Luscious, but it is not too long into the story and Luscious has to give way to Jack and Adam.
I love the chemistry between Orca and Luscious, and the way he plays a sweet role of a good friend and family before Adam shows up. I feel jealous about the way Adam takes away Orca’s attention from Luscious, but I understand why it has to be that way.
The Other World also has some beautiful philosophical, literary quality to it. One striking example of such (and there are many in the book) is found about 45 percent into the book, where you see ‘We can’t choose the wrong person if the right person is already destined for us. And if we find them, this “other half” we think they’ll magically complete us – they’ll fill that void in us, and we won’t need to take responsibility or strive to fill the emptiness ourselves.’
Another philosophical line you will see in the book is ‘…if you deny yourself because you’re afraid you’ll be letting someone down…’
I love the story’s pacing and the rich language. The book is adorned with so many fresh and captivating personifications, metaphors and similes – it is rich with vivid descriptions and figurative expressions some of which include (I am not referencing the page numbers because it was a pre-release copy I read on the Netgalley app.):
‘…the sun tucks herself behind a blanket of clouds and leaves the rest of the day smudged in shades of gray.’
‘…nothing more than a black lump that the tide is beginning to release from her frothy fingertips.’
‘…a great mob of angry black clouds charging across…’
‘Gray sheets of rain roll…’
‘…hands of terror clench my heart…’
There are many of such juicy expressions in the book, but let me pause here to talk about the few things that do not cut it for me:
The first area comes from the characterization. From my understanding of the Stevensons, the family is closely knitted and the parents are descent with some level of discipline. While I can understand the wild and, or reckless behaviour of teenagers, I think Jack’s nasty, selfish and disrespectful behaviour is way too extreme. I also don’t think his character arch is convincing enough, especially towards the end of the story where he has a conversation with Orca, and also with his brother, Adam, after flying Orca’s father to the hospital in the mainland.
Yes, Orca writes him a letter that she likes him but only as a friend and that it is his brother, Adam, that she loves, and he also decides to move on with his life by joining the navy, but Jack’s change is way too swift from his initial hard stance and animosity. It makes the novel feel rushed towards the end.
It is not impossible to find a woman who is so into her career she doesn’t want distraction of raising children, but Orca’s mother is way too cold. Even after her daughter goes looking for her sixteen years after? That’s being as cold as death.
Because the story is told from the perspectives of the three major characters, I find some of the detail redundant. For instance, where Orca already describes the wounds on Adam’s face and he also comes to describe it from his own perspective. Each time such repetition happens, the narrative loses its initial power for me. And this happens in many places, convincing me that it is deliberate by the author. I am not sure that is an effective technique.
The end of the book could have been stronger for me, if the love between Orca and Adam is further developed rather than the promises we have through the dialogue of the characters.
Also, my curiousity about the actual cause of Orca’s father’s fears is left unanswered even up to the end of the novel. Because even his wife cited his recluse life as one of her reasons for abandoning him alongside their daughter, Orca.
Would I recommend The Other World to other readers? Yes, I totally recommend it, because I enjoyed the beautiful parts of the book but also learned from the weaknesses.
I would give The Other World a 3-star rating.