Perfect Prose #7: Elsewhere

I must have read this book for the first time in 2005 or 2006, not long after it was published. I was a teenager at the time and it was one of my favourite books for many years. I have just moved my life across the ocean and I brought it with me, which got me remembering this passage, my favourite in the book.

I remember reading it all those years ago, before I had any idea where life would lead me, and every time I read it back then it gave me those stomach-butterflies of fear and excitement, just thinking about the endless possibilities; wondering.

*

“There will be other lives.
There will be other lives for nervous boys with sweaty palms, for bittersweet fumblings in the backseats of cars, for caps and gowns in royal blue and crimson, for mothers clasping pretty pearl necklaces around daughters’ unlined necks, for your full name read aloud in an auditorium, for brand-new suitcases transporting you to strange new people in strange new lands.
And there will be other lives for unpaid debts, for one-night stands, for Prague and Paris, for painful shoes with pointy toes, for indecision and revisions.
And there will be other lives for fathers walking daughters down aisles.
And there will be other lives for sweet babies with skin like milk.
And there will be other lives for a man you don’t recognize, for a face in a mirror that is no longer yours, for the funerals of intimates, for shrinking, for teeth that fall out, for hair on your chin, for forgetting everything. Everything.
Oh, there are so many lives. How we wish we could live them concurrently instead of one by one by one. We could select the best pieces of each, stringing them together like a strand of pearls. But that’s not how it works. A human’s life is a beautiful mess.”

*

From Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin, published by Bloomsbury.

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