Another Life

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 13 May 2019

Member Reviews

This book started out really strong. I really loved the first twenty pages. However, the book started to go downhill when it started to focus on a whole cast of characters. And what sucks is that the most interesting character (the rocker) wasn't mentioned as much as the single mom. And the ending wasn't satisfying at all.
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Another Life discusses issues in adolescence and religious practice and how these topics converge, particularly in the domain of an evangelical Christianity.

For those who grew up with the looming presence of a conservative church experience, Haller’s book may be an engaging read for the purposes of reminiscence and reflection. In a moving scene, a teen from one of the more conservative families in the church community confronts her peers in a speech valuable in both its naivety and passion. What is the purpose, she asks, of the type of comfortable, American Christianity they are practicing? Why not leave everything and “feed the hungry,” as is directly commanded by the bible, instead of going to college and attempting to live the American dream. Her speech is cut short, however, and she is led off stage by a church authority figure.

The book may just as easily be a disappointment for those looking for a novel involving of converging characters, marketed as literary fiction.

Yes, these characters’ “paths collide,” but at what cost to the plot of the novel? There are so many voices in this book that the reader is often left wishing for a guiding light (who here is running the show?). Any of Haller’s expertly-crafted characters would have served well as the main narrator, but he trades this stability for the chance to tell a remarkable number of stories in an average-sized novel.

As if to justify its foray into the adolescent sphere without actually marketing the book as YA (a puzzling publishing decision without a doubt), Another Life persists in trying to pull the adult world into its wings in the form of implausible and unnecessary side plots involving adult affairs with younger parties.

As well, Another Life‘s attempt to write the High School Teen Lesbian Romance and the Recent Graduate Lusts After High School Math Teacher are extraordinarily stereotypical, and at their worst, bizarre fantasies of these sexual encounters.

I would delight in seeing Robert Haller’s next book written and marketed as YA, showcasing his talents at describing the minutiae of adolescent experience and its significance to the big questions that come from the way we live our lives.

Thank you to Blackstone Publishing and NetGalley for the advance copy of this title.
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Another life is an interconnecting story told through the eyes of Laura, Paul, April, and Ben. 
Laura is at the special summer of adolescence between middle school and high school. I say special, but what I mean is HELLISH. You're unsure of who you are, adults treat you like a baby still, but you're almost old enough to drive. Some friends have boyfriends, some get noticed by the older boys. You're still young enough to not understand how gross it is when a 14-15 year old has a 19 year old boyfriend so it stings when his friends don't notice you. It's the summer of your first toke, your first beer, your first kiss. Your first gnarly hangover. 
And on top of all of this, Laura lives in the time where online relationships don't stay online forever, so when it all goes to hell with her friends who take to 15 better than her, it's time to meet her secret online man. He won't mind that she lied a little, will he? 

Paul was a legend. Then he wasn't anymore. Now he lives at home with his mom, working as the sound guy at her church. He's got some anxiety, but don't you worry about that. He's at the age where that can still be fixed with some nights of getting blackout drunk. Until he starts an affair with his former math teacher... 

April is Laura's mom. High school math teacher through the school year, head of Vacation Bible School through the summer. She hasn't been on a date in years, and it's been a decade since she's had a man in her bed. But, her life is fulfilling, right? She's got her two children, school, VBS, she doesn't have time for a man. So, it gets a little complicated when Paul comes over and confesses how he feels about her. I mean, she taught him high school math 6 years before, he can't possibly be anything else to her, can he? 

Ben is at another special summer. Your first summer of puberty. You're 12-13, far too old for the childish 11 year olds, but way too young for the 14 year olds. You've got new... feelings. You're mad about things but you don't know why. You want things but you don't know how to express your desires. The opposite sex suddenly appears to you in  a new light, so what the hell do they think of you? 
On top of all this, Ben has a new foster brother, DeShawn. He and DeShawn don't get along at all, the kid is like a weight to him. So it hurts a lot more when the girl he likes doesn't notice him. She laughs at DeShawn's jokes. That's cool though, he still has his friends. He can hang with them and still get some time away from DeShawn where he's still cool. But they like DeShawn too, why can't he just be cool? Is he a RACIST? 


I was not satisfied with the ending in any way. I didn't get closure on any of them really. It seemed rushed and I think if there had been fewer perspectives it may have captured my interest more. Like I really liked reading Laura's perspective. I will say, child has big ol brass balls. I was on the edge of my seat about her online love. 
I also think that Bethany's perspective would have been more interesting than Ben's. I never really saw how he fit in with the other narratives. 
Like I said, it's not bad. It's well written and engaging. I just wanted... more. 

*I received a copy of this from Netgalley in exchange for my review.
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Due to unforeseen circumstances, before I found the opportunity to review it, this book was archived  Obviously, I can't rate it.
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Another Life is a rather ambitious book that tries to cover everything from relationships of families to dating to race to abortion to religion to drugs to everything else you can think of. It's almost a case of doing TOO MUCH.'

Still - the writing was good...ish and there was some resolution.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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New author for me but pleasantly surprised. Thank you for the approval and look forward to a book relationship with other reads in the future,
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The famous “coming of age” story; you could say that it’s been done to death, but with each generation of authors there is always something fresh and new to the genre: the era, the locale, the gender of the protagonist or protagonists, as the case may be.

I was first caught by the cover of Another Life, simple with just enough pop.  Don’t discount covers, if it blends in with all of the others, I might not notice it.  Haller’s synopsis was intriguing.  I thought that this might be just the change of pace that I was looking for.

Haller painted the picture of one summer in a small town in upstate New York.  He allowed me to peek into the lives of some of the residents and he weaved an intricate web of connections and disconnections.  I really felt like I got to know his characters.

For whatever reason, I was unable to immerse myself into Another Life.  It’s hard to put my finger on why.  The writing was good but didn’t captivate me; the characters were interesting but didn’t become new friends; the plot was well paced but I didn’t feel the intangible pull to get back to the book.

Unfortunately, Another Life didn’t make me feel.  When I reached the end, I felt that some of the storylines were unfinished, but then again, perhaps that was the point, real life is never really finished.

*3 Stars
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This book would have been better for a YA reader. I didn’t find it that funny or interesting, though the various perspectives were a nice twist.
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This story is told through the perspective of four characters, April, Paul, Laura and Benjamin. And I have to say none of them really resonated with me. The only perspective I was interested in by the end was Laura's and that disappointed me. I thought the ending of her story was silly. There was also to many sub characters and their problems to deal with. I think four main protagonists was enough.
There was just no emotional involvement for me, the characters weren't likeable or unlikeable, they were just a bit blah. It was something out of nothing for me. I took nothing away from this book.
As for the story, my god it was full of cliches. It was one cliche after another. It was unoriginal, unimaginative and I hate to say it a bit boring. It was all just lacking, there was no plot twist. You could see what was going to happen a mile off.
However, I always try to look for something positive in a book. I can't be too negative. I liked the way Robert Haller wrote about depression and anxiety. I thought it was very real and true. It really captured the feeling of depression and anxiety.
Would I recommend this book? I wouldn't. Whilst it was a quick read, I couldn't wait for it to be over and I don't think it's a book I'll remember.
I received this book from Netgalley and Blackstone Publishing in return for an honest, unbiased review. It comes out June 4th.
Until the next review
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This book started out great for me. I loved that there were so many diverse characters and situations being tackled. I loved that each of them had their own POV. I was engaged and convinced this would be a home run for me. Alas, around the halfway mark I started to lose interest. I felt like everything and the kitchen sink was being thrown at us. I started to wish that more focus was on fewer characters (mainly Paul who was by far my favorite character and story). And then I got to the end, and that completely tanked it. We only get closure on Laura and her mother's story. What about Paul? Nikki? Ben? Becca? DeShawn? It was disappointing to say the least.
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This probably best suited to the upper end of the YA crowd.  It's the story of five people in a small town over one summer- and it's centered on Vacation Bible School.  Paul, April, Laura, Deshawn, and Benjamin are all struggling with something different- each has a topical issue lurking in their lives.  Lots of secrets and some lies.  Haller's MFA shows in the writing.  Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.  For fans of coming of age stories.
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Another Life follows the stories of single mother April, her daughter Laura, Paul, and Ben - - all members of the same church and all struggling to cope with their personal circumstances.  The story is told in alternating viewpoints by each of the characters.  What I liked most about the book was that each of these characters did seem real to me and multi-dimensional.  They struggled within their own minds, and readers were made privy to these struggles in a way that let the reader remain sympathetic to the characters even when they were making poor decisions.

Unfortunately, I do think the book tried to tackle a bit too much . . .the dangers of online dating, homosexuality, substance abuse, foster care, race, abortion, religious hypocrisy, teen pregnancy, inappropriate relationships, divorce - - all of these were at least touched upon.  It was too much.  

In addition, the level of writing felt very young adult, but I'm very unclear on whether or not that was the target audience.  There were a few scenes that made me think it wasn't, but all the other elements and how it was written seemed like young adult is the right target.  Personally, I think that is the demographic that will enjoy this story the most.

Finally, the epilogue seemed to wrap up the stories of April and Laura nicely, but the reader is left hanging about what happens to Paul and Ben in the end.  It felt a little unfinished.

Thanks to Netgalley for a free review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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I'm not really sure how I feel about this book. I enjoyed reading it and it was written week but I'm still not sure what the story was about! 

There was a lot of substories and A LOT of information relating to the Bible/Bible stories. 

The story is told from a middle aged mother's point if view, her daughter's. A young man who was previously the rockstar if the town and a teenage boy. All stories interlink, albeit some briefly. 

It addresses a few issues but doesn't really expand upon them. The characters are believable and I did look forward to reading it each evening.
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I don't know if I totally misread the blurb or what, but this was not at all what I expected. I loved Karen Russell's swamplandia, but this felt nothing at all like it. I really need to stop giving any credence to what publishers consider comparables because I'm almost universally disappointed when I agree to read something that I'm otherwise on the fence about because it was compared to something else that I loved..enjoyed. I found the characters flat and the plot never drew me in and I did not find the humor that the blurb kept emphasizing. This one just didn't work for me...
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Thank you NetGalley and Blackstone Publishing for the ARC. 

I wanted to step out of my comfort zone with books and maybe open a new door up.   So when I saw this book, it sounded interesting and it was filled with lots of Christianity (which I tend to stay away from) 

I was not prepared for the emotion that came with it.  I was not prepared for how much I would LOVE  this book and the characters.  Nor was I prepared for how much I would love the authors words and writing style.  There are a lot of characters, but surprisingly enough, I liked every single character!  

I'm pretty happy I stepped out of my comfort zone with this book.
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I managed to finish this book. Yes it had a lot of unexpected and sudden situations. Just Felt very disjointed. Way too many characters. Too many sub stories.  I put it down at  One point and looked it up to see if it was a YA novel.  It truly lacked the intelligence and clsrity  that I look for in literary fiction.  I found the whole VBS  storyline boring and  totally unrealistic. I can't say that I would be interested in reading another book by this author. I did read him compared to Richard Russo? I don't think so. Once again thank you for my advance copy.
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Poetic ~ Humorous ~ Subtle

tl;dr: As if Vacation Bible School conformed to our stereotypes of band camp. 

Haller writes a story about the complicated truths people find when in close quarters and forced to think about faith. These kids do many of the things teens do (or hope to do) including, though not limited to, kissing, gossips, flirting, and considering their own existence. While the summer camp trope is a common one, Haller offers a sublty deep voice to the field. His voice is empathetic and poetic. No character is given short-shrift, making this a satisfying read for all. I will point out that VBS or VBC is not part of my faith, so I don't know how a Christian might feel about this book. I found the book respectful of all from the faulty faithed folks to the religious ones. 

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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I usually stay awake till two in the morning anxiously reading a science fiction, fantasy, or weirdly disturbing book before compiling an immediate review about it – my thoughts and emotions still fresh. This time there’s going to be an exception because I won’t be doing a wild review about any of these genres (obviously) but if you enjoy reading something that tortures your soul and creates a yearning for something tender then by all means, read on.

Ignoring sleep-deprivation and a slow headache as I type this, Another Life is an incredibly joyful, heart-warming, and gut-wrenching piece of literature. I congratulate the author for his incredible level of observation and dedication to have written a book that focuses so intently on the fragile seams of relationships that I could effortlessly put myself in any of their situations and experience their fears, worries, doubts, insecurities, joys, and hurt.

On principle I don’t make a habit of reading these kinds of books, and not for any prejudice or to avoid falling in that gap of ‘mainstream reads’. Monsters, the unknown, space, science, violence, witty dialogue, expansive worlds – these are my daily bread and butter. Sometimes, it’s a staple for a good mental health – I’d like to believe – but you can always do with some salt, something that stabs you and plays with the strings of those heart muscles.

These rare and enjoyable books, of this particular caliber, remind me what it feels like to be human. I know deliberately stubbing my toe against the coach will yield the exact same emotions but I often prefer to read something that makes me cry – on the inside.

Tears and beard balm don’t go that well together.

As per usual, no spoilers, but just enough to get your fingers itching: already having mentioned what a great job Haller does at focusing the emotional landscape and leading us through the kaleidoscope of endless ups and downs that comes with it, there is another thing he excels at which had me intrigued and that is how the characters interact with each other, the world around them, and how their thoughts are effortlessly translated for the reader to interpret however they desire. There’s a lot of Christianity within the novel and with the turn of events, Haller expertly not uses it as a simple prop like a science fiction writer would use a planet or a ship, but this prop serves a function which is almost a double-edged sword; is it good? Is it bad? Can there be any gray areas in-between? Take this concept and add youthful ignorance, uncertainty, and identity into the mix and guess what; you get Another Life.
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Another Life
By Robert Haller
Description
Vacation Bible School got a little out of hand this year. 

Laura: a teenage girl struggling to fit into her small, sleepy town in upstate New York, slowly drifting away from reality and into the secret life she inhabits online. Paul: a twentysomething wannabe rock star, back home from New York City, broke and jobless, living with his mother. April: a math teacher with two kids, running her church’s Vacation Bible School, discontent with another summer planning crafts and regurgitating verses. Ben: a boy stuck at VBS, still adjusting to the presence of his foster brother, DeShawn, a quiet, brooding kid from Brooklyn.

Over the course of one summer, these characters’ paths will collide in surprising, often hilarious ways. Encompassing questions of identity, religion, race, and family, Another Life is an absorbing and thought-provoking debut about the line we all walk between desire and responsibility.

I want to first thank NetGalley for the advance copy for review of the book.
Whew, I wanted to like the book, but there was so much going on. I think Laura was the only person I could connect with. Then she became lost in the VBS doing. So many people and situations.
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Thanks netgalley for the preview copy! The description of this book pulled me in right away. However, it seems like this book still needs some work. There were typos, missing words and formatting issues in many parts of the book as well as random insertions of the authors name in the middle of sentences. I found inconsistencies in the characters i.e. a 16 year old girl mentioning she started going to church when her ex husband left her.  There were many flashbacks that seemed out of order and were then contradicted by the next narrators point of view. I honestly feel like there was too much put into this book. 
Spoiler alert: there’s a gay pastors daughter who lies and sneaks around, drug use, a  20’s something  having an affair with a single mom in her 40’s and while this is going on he goes on a bender and impregnates another 20 something, a family who takes in a foster child but their biological child is racist and cruel towards the foster child,  and then there’s a 16 year old girl cat fishing a man who turns out to be a sex offender. Oh and did I mention she attends an anti abortion rally in order to go meet him-the storylines just seem to be trying too hard. I think the general premise would have been a good book if it wasn’t packed with so many whammy’s that seem to come out of nowhere.
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