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After Life (Nancy Pearl's Book Lust Rediscoveries) Paperback – June 5, 2012
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In Twenty Years: A Novel
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For Naomi Ash is a medium, and the daughter of a medium, who lives in a town founded and populated entirely by other mediums. From the beginning, she's been privy to all the tricks of her trade. Growing up in New Orleans, she helped her spiritualist mother by faking spirit voices through fans and, in one case, draping herself in a lace tablecloth as the ghost of a dead child. But what begins in fraud, she tells us, has ended "in something at least close to truthfulness":
I, for one, couldn't always disentangle the real from the fraudulent, the truth from its trappings. Sometimes it seemed as if my mother's fakery was just a more interesting and beautiful version of what was real. Sometimes it seemed that the truth needed the lies, as if there wouldn't be any truth without them. At any rate, whatever my mother was doing, it was a rare and powerful thing, perhaps even a form of magic. It enthralled me.After their move to Train Line, New York, a fairy tale Victorian village run slightly to seed, Naomi and her mother settle into working Psychic Faires and message services. Then Naomi meets Peter Morton, a graduate student on vacation, and falls in love; 10 years later, she's still paying the price.
First-time novelist Ellis produces lovely prose: "A lonely life is a crime without witnesses, it is a movie playing in a locked theater; can you ever really be sure what happens in it? Can you be sure that it happens at all?" At the same time, this author's writing can be willfully unglamorous: her characters have dirty hair and clothes with stains on them, and their world smells like ours, like fried things and wet earth and dirty lake water. In its mix of the mundane and the magical, After Life gets at some fundamental truths about the dead and those they leave behind. You don't have to believe in the spirit world to understand Naomi's final insight as a medium--or to know just how much it hurts: "He would never be completely gone, but he would never, ever be with me." --Greta Kline --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
I ordered this book after I read a review of it in the local paper that included the first line of the book, "First I had to get his body into the boat." I thought, "That's it- I've gotta get this book." I'm not a big mystery reader kinda person, but this was obviously a psychological mystery- Whose body? Why a boat? Did YOU kill him? How'd he die? You slowly learn all the answers to those questions, with the "WHY did he die?" question being answered last. I can't really recall ever reading a book with this approach and it very much intrigued me.
The title "After Life" is really great- Naomi can truly (or maybe truly- she doesn't ever seem to be totally confident) see the spirits of those who have passed on, and even the spirit belonging to the body headed to the boat eventually comes to her. She is dealing with Life After death and not just any death- the death of her boyfriend, a death that we suspect she is responsible for, and she is coping with the responsibility and fear that is associated with the potential of his being discovered (and then, maybe, HER being discovered for his death) and it is a very interesting struggle.
Ellis' ways of describing the world around you is also unique- The mother of the main character Naomi says, "Two people never love each other at the same time. One loves, and the other is in love with being loved. The fun is in guessing which one's you.Read more ›
After Life is by turns a character study, love story, and sort-of mystery. I found it to be very well-written, but the plot isn't very compelling. Not much happens in Train Line, and Naomi isn't the most interesting of heroines (it isn't easy to make a poorly socialized misfit into a compelling character, although I've seen it done quite well elsewhere). The solution of the mystery (and the situation that opens the novel) is a letdown. Ms. Pearl talks about the relationship between Naomi and her mother Galina as being an important part of the book, but I found Naomi's connection to the child she babysits, Vivian, more interesting. Some of the scenes of seances and readings by the mediums are very good, and Naomi's relationship with her boyfriend Peter is well depicted and believable.
This is the kind of book I wanted to like a lot more than I actually liked. For me, the author is a better descriptive writer than she is a storyteller, which isn't uncommon. I would recommend the book as an example of a fine stylist, and to those with an interest in spiritualism.
On a side note - if you find yourself interested in Lily Dale after reading this book, check out the excellent documentary about it that aired on HBO last year.
People will compare Ellis with Stephen King because of her subject matter here-which will cull "litrary" types before they even pick it up, of course. Many people overlook the fact that King at his best is masterful at story tension and portraying American life, and I think Ellis shares similar gifts.
Ellis' great strength lies in her ability to write naturally about strange situations and people...and her plot is unique and riveting as well. Her descriptions of emotions are spot-on, and the sensual descriptions in the book are clear and wonderfully perceptive--they never failed to amaze me. One reviewer commented here that they were disappointed that the murder in the book occurred in such a mundane way. I think every now and then those of us who've read a lot of books and seen a lot of movies are extraordinarily delighted when we stumble on an artist who bucks the system and has the courage to write about something like a murder without applying all sorts of cultural cliches to it. As the main character comments at one point, "The worst thing in the world can happen, but the next day the sun will come up. And you will eat your toast. And you will drink your tea." The real story in this novel is not the murder--it's what happens to Naomi as she tries to keep such a huge secret in a colony of psychics (one of whom is her own mother!Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
ok for a fast read. It helps to believe in paranormal activities. The characters were charming but not always believable.Published 29 days ago by avid reader
It is an outstanding book worthy of any library of those who love the sea. The book was better than described, the quality and prompt response without rival.Published 3 months ago by Anthony Carro
I'm not sure why this page is filled with reviews for a book that is not related to this volume in any way. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Carol T.
I expected more from this book. The writing was good, but I began to lose interest in the characters about 2/3 of the way through and was never able to reengage.Published 5 months ago by Elaine Taravella
Well, no, they don't. I know that. In any event, I just got this book from the sale area of Friends of the Library. "Weeded" from the Zero Public Library. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Marco Buendia
Great characters, perfect amount of suspense, really excellent writing.Published 10 months ago by aj