Richly emotive and darkly captivating, with elements of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” and the imaginative depth of Margaret Atwood, Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin conjures a community in which girls become wives, wives become mothers and some of them, quite simply, disappear.
Vera grows up in a small town, removed and isolated, pressed up against the mountains, cloud-covered and damp year-round. This town, fiercely protective, brutal and unforgiving in its adherence to tradition, faces a singular affliction: some mothers vanish, disappearing into the clouds. It is the exquisite pain and intrinsic beauty of their lives; it sets them apart from people elsewhere and gives them meaning.
Vera, a young girl when her own mother went, is on the cusp of adulthood herself. As her peers begin to marry and become mothers, they speculate about who might be the first to go, each wondering about her own fate. Reveling in their gossip, they witness each other in motherhood, waiting for signs: this one devotes herself to her child too much, this one not enough—that must surely draw the affliction’s gaze. When motherhood comes for Vera, she is faced with the question: will she be able to stay and mother her beloved child, or will she disappear?
Provocative and hypnotic, Alexis Schaitkin’s Elsewhere is at once a spellbinding revelation and a rumination on the mysterious task of motherhood and all the ways in which a woman can lose herself to it; the self-monitoring and judgment, the doubts and unknowns, and the legacy she leaves behind.
Alexis Schaitkin is the author of Saint X. Her short stories have been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Nonrequired Reading. She received her MFA in fiction from the University of Virginia, where she was a Henry Hoyns Fellow. She lives in Williamstown, Massachusetts, with her husband and their two children.
"Schaitkin’s writing is transcendent. Elsewhere takes the visceral experience of motherhood—all its private joys, invisible fears, personal losses, and vague sensations of being judged—and turns it inside out, weaving each element into a dark fairy tale that is wise, gorgeous, and deeply moving."
—Ali Benjamin, author of The Smash-Up
“Elsewhere is among my favorite novels of the last decade. There’s an eerie, gorgeous magic to Schaitkin’s vision that’s related to the magic of Kazuo Ishiguro and Shirley Jackson but also entirely her own. I hadn’t realized how much it would mean to me to witness an intelligence this fierce and singular, a capacity for feeling this deep, and a gift for language this extraordinary all trained on the subject of motherhood in all its wonder and strangeness.”
—Clare Beams, author of The Illness Lesson
"Elaborately imagined, ethereally detailed...In a complete departure from her debut, Saint X (2020), Schaitkin’s sophomore novel is a fabulist narrative with Shirley Jackson overtones and Margaret Atwood themes."
"Schaitkin (Saint X) returns with...great substance by digging into the complicated feelings brought on by motherhood and the judgments from others, all the while delineating the mothers’ utter joy, frustrations, and love for their children. This is a standout."
—Publishers Weekly, STARRED Review
"Schaitkin (Saint X, 2020) has written a compelling, poetic, and chilling novel that examines fate and fear."
—Booklist, STARRED Review
"A simply stunning work of speculative fiction. The prose is as magical as the haunting world Schaitkin creates; the story is as captivating as the prose; the characters, the imagery—flawless. The novel has social commentary and thematic strength to boot.... This novel is, at its core, a commentary and psychological exploration of motherhood, as readers follow Vera through parenting’s tender highs and most gut-wrenching, self-doubting lows. Schaitkin’s sophomore novel channels early Margaret Atwood, a magical, otherworldly story certain to be on plenty of 2022 “best of” lists."
—Library Journal, STARRED Review
“This is a fascinating speculative novel about the life-altering experience of motherhood that reminded me both of Shirley Jackson’s short story 'The Lottery' and Ursula K. Le Guin’s 'The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas.' The audiobook narrated by Ell Potter is riveting.”
—Buzzfeed News, "20 Amazing New Science Fiction And Fantasy Beach Reads"
“Drawing comparisons to Shirley Jackson and Margaret Atwood, Alexis Schaitkin’s Elsewhere centers on Vera, a young woman who has grown up in an isolated, mysterious town where mothers often vanish into thin air.”
—Bustle, "The Most Anticipated Books Of June 2022"
“This exquisitely written work of speculative fiction has been called Shirley Jackson’s 'The Lottery' meets Margaret Atwood, and it’s one you’ll be thinking about long after its final sentence.”
—Apartment Therapy, "If You’re Going to Read One Book In June, Make It This One“
"Beautiful writing and a serious consideration of womanhood and girlhood through a gripping story."