Book Review and Author Interview: ‘Elsewhere’ by Kathryn Burns


There was a break-up. Madness is the aftermath. Madison Lam is a recent college graduate and victim of a breakup with her girlfriend. Feeling simultaneously over-and-underwhelmed by the state of her life (and struggling to care), she embarks on a road trip in an effort to self destruct. Whimsy may or may not ensue. Hi-jinks not guaranteed.

Book review contains spoilers.

Heartache, restlessness, and fighting your own demons are only some of the components that are captured in Kathryn Burns’ book, Elsewhere. Written with poetic eloquence, I found myself getting lost in the words. Kathryn did a brilliant job painting a picture of what a heartache feels like. It is sometimes messy but in every dark chapter in our lives is when we truly test our own strength.

Elsewhere had my heart aching from the very beginning, because I have been there. I have had relationships end badly, and this book is intended to bring out that darkness and loneliness that we all hate to admit comes from heartache. Who was once your best friend and lover is now a stranger yet again. It comes full circle. Elsewhere  is a coming of age story where heartache leads to facing what you feared the most, while learning from it and maturing in the end.

Even though you might not initially gravitate to the plot, the characters are what pull you in. There does not need to be a heavy storyline, because the characters and the emotion are already deep. Madison has depth and is coming to terms with a heartache that left her devastated. She decides to take a road trip across the country to run away from her problems and to clear her head. Little does she know that the person she is running from is herself. Though the book takes place post-relationship, you get a sense of how it was when Madison and her now-ex were together through the flashbacks. The relationships that she has with her family and ex are deeply ingrained in the story.

I adored the relationships she had with her family. Also, the people she met on the road were vivid and distinct. Despite a good amount being random encounters, there was a reason why Madison met each person that she did.

Elsewhere had quite the amount of secondary characters. They were perfectly intertwined in the story, which did not hinder the plot at all. Madison finally gets to see her grandparents, who give her the sense of security and nostalgia she is seeking. Moreover, Madison gets to finally visit her dad’s grave after all this time. She receives the one thing she was looking for, which was closure. Kathryn also talks about the finalities of goodbyes. The fear that comes with saying goodbye and how hard it is to say weighs heavily. Overall, Elsewhere causes one to reflect about more than just heartache, but the freedom that comes when one conquers their biggest demons.

We also had the opportunity to interview the author to get a more in-depth look of Elsewhere and what inspired the story.

  1. What inspired you to write Elsewhere?

One of my main priorities when I’m writing is diversity. When I think about subjects that aren’t often represented in any books I’ve read or even heard about, such as pansexuality and functioning with mental illness, it inspires me to chip away at that problem by writing about those subjects myself. Elsewhere is very personal to me because I struggle with bipolar disorder in my own life.

  1. Elsewhere captures the heartache that comes with any break up. How did the cross country road trip come about as a coping mechanism?

The urge to drive when I’m stressed or upset is something that I’ve always experienced to a certain extent. Driving calms me, and sometimes I’ll be gone for hours. So Madison’s journey came about from the thought of what would happen if you didn’t turn around and go back, but just kept driving.

  1. Madison meets interesting characters during her road trip. How did the creation of these characters come about and who were some of your favorite ones to write about?

If I were ever going to write a companion novel to Elsewhere, it would be about Gabe. But honestly, I love them all. Her siblings are all in very different places in their lives, and were very fun to explore. I also really enjoyed portraying a healthy polyamorous relationship with the Seattle group. All of the characters came about very organically, just based on how everyone in the world has a unique experience and perspective. No two people lead the same exact life or are coming from the same exact place.

  1. What message do you want readers to take away from your book?

I hope that people feel a little less alone when they read Madison’s story. It’s okay to feel what you’re feeling. Always. I also just like making the point that LGBT+ and mentally ill people exist. They’re walking around, leading their own lives and having their own adventures. If anyone can’t personally relate to any of these characters, I hope it creates a little exposure.

Author Bio: Kathryn Burns is a twenty-one year old cat mom of four who lives in Indianapolis and watches too much television. She drinks tea and writes things, occasionally at the same time.

Camille lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. You will most likely find her wandering around local bookstores, going to a concert or enjoying the sights of the city by the bay. This Captain America fangirl enjoys attending book events, re-watching her favorite Disney movies and obsessing over the latest entertainment news. You can find her on Twitter @itscamille_ann.