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Tales From The After Life
The Five People You Meet in Heaven- Mitch Albom
A fairly short book, Albom known for Tuesdays With Morrie is an author I am quite unfamiliar. In this book, I really liked Albom's writing style and he has a fantastic ability to tell a story. It is his style and poetic descriptions that stood out and is the aspect I enjoyed most.
This book is about a man, Eddie an elderly maintenance worker at a carnival. He is dissatisfied with the course his life has taken and it is not until death that he realises that perhaps, it was not a life half lived after all. He dies in an accident and goes on to meet five people who have influenced his life. It takes you through the different stages of his life. Some of those he meets in heaven are people, who he may never have even seen but he, in some way has impacted their lives and they his.
As a reader you feel that you are on the journey with him. Liked realising the connections as you pieced together the fragments and memories of his life. The impact of even the slightest thing, altered the course and path Eddie took. Answers are found for questions he has. A very quick read and a short book, no challenge at all to devour.
It seemed a little preachy and overtly keen to spread a positive message. Not necessarily a criticism. Reinforced in the story, is that it is the people in your life that are the most important. Another positive message emphasised is not to dwell, live life to its fullest and not let yourself be shackled by expectations you have created or ones that other believe are key- live your own life!
Her Fearful Symmetry- Audrey Niffenger
A novel that I have only, just finished. I have read Niffenger previously and find her books curious and very interesting. Her Fearful Symmetry did not fail to deliver and was one of the most obscure books I have ever read. Incredibly well written with rich characters and a good pace to it, the story is about twins and spirits. It is a haunting and captivating tale, by in large set in luxury flats situated next to an ancient London graveyard. The story at its centre is about two sets of twins, one estranged and an ocean apart. The others are the mainstay in the story, central characters and happen to be the daughters of one of the sisters.
The two girls inherit a flat left to them by their mothers twin sister. It has been given to them on the condition that they live in the flat for just a year before they decide to sell it on. The flat which had belonged to Elspeth is the girls Aunt whom passes away due to ill health. The twins Julia and Valentina have an ethereal beauty about them, willowy and pale with long blonde hair. They are young women who have led a comfortable and sheltered life. Utterly inseparable they make their way to London to carry out their Aunts wishes. A sense of the after life is introduced promptly as Elspeth's spirit remains in the house, weak at first she gains in strength as time passes. It is a sad existence, no one knows she is there and she just exists like air unable to do anything. The girls move in and odd things start to happen. Elspeth's ghost strengthens and Valentina detects a presence. Communication eventually opens up between them.
The book is deep and so unique. It was an easy book to read and I enjoyed the after life on earth aspect. Elspeth existing where she had in life, the sadness and difficulties she experienced when watching others live. I would certainly recommend it if you are seeking a book out of the ordinary.
The Lovely Bones- Alice Sebold
It has been a little bit of time since I read this book, however I still remember it well. It was made into film directed by Peter Jackson which I am yet to see. Due to my experience of reading it, I cannot really imagine how it would work as a film. "The Lovely Bones" is the story of Susie Salmon, who provides a voice beyond the grave. Her story opens and she is just an ordinary school girl. The introduction is fairly brief. Sebold wastes no time in unfolding the death of young Susie.
One winters day, as she is walking home from school, she is asked to check out a hideaway and is cruelly taken from the world. A neighbour captures, abuses and kills the young girl. Susie goes to heaven and from there she watches her family as they grow old, come to terms with their loss and live. They grow up without her and a-lot happens, none of which she can control or change. All the more painful, is that Susie watches as her killer walks free.
A book like no other, it is a strange and unique perspective. Written in the voice of Susie, you are right in her head. It is quite a dark subject matter and it fully describes the attack in graphic detail. Reading this quite young, I was pretty shocked at that. The book kept my attention throughout and was a real page turner. There were so many things explored and light moments too. Family, love, growing up and an insight into Susie's heaven and those she meets there. Highly recommend, there is more to it than what I have said. All in all it is a thought provoking and engaging book, well worth a read.
The Gargoyle- Andrew Davidson
Perhaps pushing it a little to categorise it as such. This is a tale, not from the afterlife itself as the titles above. It is rather, the story of a previous life- an altogether more Buddhist way of looking at things! This novel is the best book I have read in recent years. Just a fantastic, fantastic read and I really hope that Davidson pens another. Initially, I was quite uncertain of it from the blurb. But was so glad that I ignored my early misgivings. Incredibly well written, it is a book and story that just took my breath away. So many themes are explored in this novel from vanity, life lessons, mental illness, the medieval times, travel, history, love... endless really.
The protagonist and narrator is a egotistical man, a porn star, selfish who has done very little good in his hollow, shallow life. His looks are ruined in an accident, upon leaving hospital he plans to commit suicide. Into his life steps, Marianne Engel, a sculptress of gargoyles. She has a mission to complete and will not settle til it is done. Engel is a schizophrenic, who meets the narrator (he remains nameless throughout) in hospital. She is convinced that she knows him. She nurses and attempts to heal him, physically and emotionally. Engel's acquintance with him was as a lover, many, many years ago in Medieval Germany. She retells their story then, the travels they make across the globe, the depth of their love and sacrifices made. Her stories take you to Japan, England, Iceland and Italy. The question is, can a person as dark be cured and is he capable of loving someone beyond himself.
Found it quite difficult to put into words, a description that does this book justice and one which summarises all that it is about adequately. It is a deep book, with so many themes, stories and facets. Below is the opening line of the book, which in itself is more than enough to entice one to begin reading!
"Accidents ambush the unsuspecting, often violently, just like love."