In my review of All I Know Now, I mentioned that I was hopeful that Carrie’s fictional debut would be much better than her first book. But I think I preferred All I Know Now to On the Other Side. As a debut, it’s a decent read, but, overall, it was tedious and quite dull.
What I liked the best was the concept of the novel. On the Other Side follows the life of Evie Snow, going on a journey in the afterlife to revisit her past moments in life in order to get rid of her personal baggage and allow her entrance into her own personal Heaven. She must confront three secrets which she had kept and the book is split into three sections for each secret. But that’s where any positivity from me stops.While the whole book wasn’t terrible, there were so many moments and parts that I didn’t like so, looking back on it as I write this, what I didn’t like is a considerable amount of the book.
The book doesn’t appear to be set in a particular time period. Carrie says this because she wanted the book to be timeless. But this just came about as a cop out to me. It’s quite confusing and I don’t know why Carrie or her editor thought this would work. Did Carrie not want to do the research for an earlier period of time? Certain actions from all the characters would’ve made more sense with proper context of the time period it’s set in. For example, Evie and her brother are both heavily dependent on their parent’s inheritance. Evie makes the decision to leave her true love, Vincent, because she learns her younger brother is gay and his disinheritance means she will need to support him. In a modern time, while older people can still be dependent on their parents, it didn’t seem impossible that her brother could’ve gotten a job. It’s difficult to get a job, but it’s doable. I don’t recall her ever mentioning if he has one? Or why he can’t get one? Her brother just seems to be a paper character until his presence (and sexuality) is needed in the plot. And I don’t understand why the prospect of her being cut off from her inheritance frightens her when we clearly see her living independently, despite us being told she’s completely useless because her Mum shielded her away from the real world.
When I heard from Carrie that there would be multiple characters with different sexualities, it got my interest. But then I soon realised her attempt at being inclusive is quite clumsy. Her brother is gay, Vincent is bisexual and Isla, a female servant from her household, is pansexual. She’s quite unsubtle in how it’s introduced. Since the characterisation is flimsy, especially for her brother and Isla, their sexuality comes across as the only thing about them. We learn that Evie is quite ignorant due to her upbringing and I’m glad interacting with people outside her family taught her to be more open. But then we see that Isla is fired from her job for kissing a woman, but she’s never mentioned again. Evie admires her enough to name her daughter after her but not enough to keep in touch? Really? Was her mum gonna disown her for talking to a friend?
Evie is written as this character who always makes the best of every bad situation. But she doesn’t? This whole book is her letting everyone walk over her and being miserable, even in the afterlife. The book is written around three secrets. And what it told me was that Evie’s life after Vincent never made her happy. She basically told her children that she was never happy with her life and Vincent was the only one she truly loved. I find it weird that basically everyone in the book practically shipped Evie and Vincent when none of them would have been there if they had gotten together.
I know a lot of what I have said seems overwhelmingly negative, but there were aspects of the book which were decent but the magic realism part of it needed to be seeped into the plot more and most of their issues could’ve been fixed if they just sat down and actually talked through it. I can’t say I liked the book but, overall, I do still have hope in Carrie’s writing and do wish her the best in her writing career. I’ll keep an eye out for her next one, maybe it’ll impress me more than this one.