The Other Side of You
Salley Vickers
book reviews:
· general fiction
· chick lit/romance
· sci-fi/fantasy
· graphic novels
· nonfiction
· audio books

Click here for the RSS Feed

· author interviews
· children's books @
· DVD reviews @

win books
buy online


for authors
& publishers

for reviewers

click here to learn more

Buy *The Other Side of You* by Salley Vickers online

The Other Side of You
Salley Vickers
272 pages
March 2008
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

buy this book now or browse millions of other great products at
previous reviewnext review

“Who is the third who walks always beside you?
Who is that on the other side of you?”

- T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land
Salley Vickers explores this question in this deeply affecting tale of the relationship between 45-year-old psychotherapist David McBride and his suicidal patient, Elizabeth Cruickshank. She comes to him as if sent by an unseen spiritual presence, appearing to possess the key with which to unlock his own long repressed feelings and needs. At the same time, he encourages her toward revelations of her own, thus allowing her to confront those aspects of her life which have led to despair.
“My mind darted anxiously to Elizabeth Cruikshank, whom it was my duty to try to perceive. How far did she want me to see her? But then, how far do any of us want to be seen? On the one hand, it is what we fear most, that our shamefulness, disloyalties, meanness, cruelties, miseries, the sum of our hopeless, abject, creeping failures be finally laid bare. But the very opposite is also the case. I believe …that we are in anguish until someone finally finds us out. And the deeper truth is that human consciousness can hold two contradictory states at once, and all our unmet longings wear an overcoat of fear. “
After their first session, David describes Elizabeth as “elegant, guarded, quiet. A hinterland person.” Indeed, she seems to be barely existing on the outskirts of life, having been “dragged back from the other side” following her unsuccessful suicide attempt. David’s task is to help her discover a “cure for life,” to find meaning and purpose in what has apparently become meaningless.

Elizabeth carries a burden of longing and guilt which she slowly reveals to David over the course of one hours-long session, in which the pair of them devour sandwiches and whiskey to fortify themselves through the emotional upheaval their revelations entail. David bears burdens of his own: his lifelong sense of responsibility regarding the loss of his older brother, whose death David witnessed when the boys were just 5 and 6 years old. The session becomes the cornerstone of the book and is carried out as interplay between the two, with David silently unearthing his own feelings as he listens to his patient open her heart.

The novel is enriched by a cast of well-drawn supporting characters – husbands, wives, old lovers, best friends, and mental patients of varying degrees of disturbance - who all play a part in Elizabeth and David’s discoveries about that “other side” of themselves.

The Italian artist Caravaggio also figures importantly in this novel, and his paintings of The Road to Emmaus, particularly the way Christ reveals himself to the two disciples as they walk blissfully unaware along the dusty road, becomes the entry point at which Elizabeth and David begin to develop their close relationship, as well as come to a greater understanding of “what lies on the other side” of their own personalities.

The book focuses on a period of intense crisis in the lives of these two characters, and it is heartbreaking in the emotional truths that are revealed. The reader can’t help but reflect on her own life and what might have been, on the shadow selves who walk beside us, filled with longing for “the passages we did not take/the doors we did not open.” (Eliot, The Waste Land) Vickers’ writing has an elegant reserve about it, matching Elizabeth’s personality, yet the reader senses how deeply she cares for these characters, how much she to wishes their lives could have been different.

Although one cannot say this novel has a “happy” ending in the sense you might expect, it is poignantly satisfying. Having met the other side of themselves head-on, David and Elizabeth are at last relieved of a major burden which has prevented them from living a fully self-actualized (to use another psychological term) life. At novel’s end, as Vickers reveals something of their lives from the vantage point of twenty years into the future, the reader feels they have been able to find that meaning in their lives, the kind of meaning which could be considered “the cure for living” of which Gus Galen, David’s friend and mentor, spoke. The question for a therapist to consider, Gus advises David, was “not how to cure, or be cured, but how to live.”

The Other Side of You is an astonishing tale on many levels – the story of an unusual relationship which leads to amazing self-knowledge, the story of the way art can influence life, but mostly the story of how deeply hidden regrets and yearnings can cripple us, dogging our days and preventing us from living the life we were meant to live.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Rebecca Rowan, 2008

Also by Salley Vickers:

buy *The Other Side of You* online
click here for more info
Click here to learn more about this month's sponsor!

fiction · sf/f · comic books · nonfiction · audio
newsletter · free book contest · buy books online
review index · links · · authors & publishers

site by ELBO Computing Resources, Inc.