2019 Reading Challenge

2019 Reading Challenge
Jill Elizabeth has read 0 books toward her goal of 200 books.

Hereafter by Terri Bruce

Honestly, I’ve finished and I feel like there’s a lot to talk about but I don’t know what to say… I’m going to do something I don’t normally do and start with the negatives. I did NOT like this protagonist. In fact, I can honestly say that I found Irene Dunphy one of the least sympathetic, most unlikable characters I’ve come across – and not because she’s so spectacularly evil or horrifying but because of the banality of her selfishness, which I think is altogether emblematic of the current ME ME ME culture. Because I disliked her so much, I struggled with the book. A lot. Which is a tragedy, because there’s a surprising amount of very thoughtful and intriguing stuff going on around Irene. There were a number of points where I got so sick and tired of her whining and complaining and using everyone around her that I almost closed the book – she was THAT bad.

So enough about her.

Let me now bring you the highlight of the book for me – Jonah. A character who doesn’t even get mentioned by name in the book blurb (or the blurb for the second book, incidentally). A character that I think deserves to, at least, share billing with Irene because he is as major a part of the story (IMHO) as she is. Jonah is where all the actual adulting comes in – even though he’s only 14. He’s also where the depth and sincerity and relatability and enjoyment came in for me. Without his character as the foil for Irene, this would have been a book I put down early on.

The concept of afterlife here is interesting if not entirely novel. I did enjoy the “living” and “dead” food/drink/accoutrements concept, and the tidbits of trivia and history Jonah throws in randomly all over the place were some of my favorite bits of the story. I would like to have seen more backstory on him – and even the Dreaded Irene. It might have helped (especially with her) to understand where they were coming from a bit – tiny smatterings are teased out over the course of the story but there are still rather gaping holes in my understanding of who they are and why they are who they are. A lot of the text felt draggy to me – I get that the monotony of death is a huge part of what Irene is experiencing, but it felt monotonous to me as a reader to keep hearing, over and over, how boring and listless everything (and everyone) was.

On the whole, this was a three-star book for me because it just didn’t move at the pace (or with the depth/breadth) I expected. There are some very funny and very poignant moments, and a smattering of lessons woven into the text – usually against Irene’s will. I understand this is book one of three; I’m curious where things go, although my dislike of Irene (seriously – even I was surprised at how viscerally I responded to her!) makes me a bit ambivalent about reading on.

My review copy was provided by the author. (NB: My review copy had a different cover – the one included here and on Amazon is fantastically lush; mine was a bit more staid. The former catches the eye – as Irene herself would; the latter is probably, to my mind, more indicative of what’s inside – both inside the book AND inside Irene. Both are equally compelling as a result – I’m curious what sparked the change…)

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