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 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 improbable 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.
Another Life by Robert Haller
Fiction – Blackstone Publishing – 4 June 2019