Thursday, September 27, 2012

Review: The After Wife by Gigi Levangie Grazer

When David Lee Roth sang, "Well East coast girls are hip
I really dig those styles they wear
And the Southern girls with the way they talk
They knock me out when I'm down there
The Mid-West farmer's daughters really make you feel alright
And the Northern girls with the way they kiss
They keep their boyfriends warm at night
I wish they all could be California
I wish they all could be California
I wish they all could be California girls," the implication, of course, was that California girls are the cream of the crop, close to perfection.  But what if you aren't perfection in California and specifically in LA?  What if the person who loved you, imperfections and all, died, leaving not only you but your life less than perfect?  Hannah Bernal, the main character in Gigi Levangie Grazer's newest novel, has to face that very reality after her beloved husband John dies after being hit by a car. 

Hannah's a young widow in a place that doesn't accept death well.  Her finances are in a shambles and when she's fired from her latest producing gig, she might just have to sell her house.  She's slowly going off the rails.  And it's not just Hannah living this new unwanted life, she's got a sassy, fashionista, daddy's girl of a three year old daughter Ellie who misses the dad who was always her primary caregiver.  Luckily Hannah also has a cast of loving, if off-beat, friends, Chloe, Aimee, and Jay, who rally around her to bail her out and to try and help her face her grief and the new normal of widowed life.  That they cannot keep Hannah from seeing and speaking to the dead is not a mark of how ineffective they are or of how nutty they think Hannah is getting, but is an unexpected but factual reflection of Hannah's new life.  Apparently with John's death, Hannah has become more sensitive to the spirits around her and she can in fact talk to dead people.  She can pass messages on from them to their loved ones.  But telling work colleagues or perfect strangers things from the deceased is a sure way to make people look at you askance.  As if Hannah's very widowhood hadn't already made her a bit of a pariah, her messages from the beyond positively freak people out and make her kooky friends wonder if she's not going completely insane.

Grazer has written a light, entertaining, and even playful novel about life after death, both the living going on after losing a loved one as well as the idea of an after life for the dead and the ways in which they remain with us.  Hannah's grief is palpable and her floundering in the wake of John's death is very realistic.  That she cannot even remember to care for her own child, leaving her at school long past pick-up time and avoiding the difficulty of telling her that her beloved daddy is gone forever, is completely believable given her own withdrawal from the world.  She's a mess, that Hannah, but a mess with whom the reader feels a connection.  The idea of a person suddenly being able to talk to the dead is handled interestingly and makes for a humorous plot twist given the situations in which Hannah's new gift and her inability to keep quiet about it lands her.  The secondary characters here are fairly stereotypical and the book on the whole doesn't delve deeply into the issues it touches on, staying firmly on the light and playful surface.  An entertaining read, this is a sitcom of a novel about death and grieving, light on the depressing sadness and heavier on the simple enjoyment factor.
 
Thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book to review.

2 comments:

  1. Life after death, grief not easy subjects to handle. The fact that the book is light and easy to read makes it well worth reading.

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