AFTER THIS by Claire Bidwell Smith


When Life Is Over, Where Do We Go?
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An angst-ridden search for the afterlife.

Having lost both her parents and a close friend by her mid-20s, Smith (The Rules of Inheritance, 2012) has spent the rest of her life grappling with issues of grief and loss. This extends even to her profession as a therapist specializing in grief. In her second memoir, the author tracks her almost compulsive search for an understanding of what happens when people die and “where” the dead reside. In an often absorbing yet also self-absorbed narrative, Smith looks back on meetings with mediums, an astrologist and a past-life regression therapist. In addition, she recounts experiences with shamanism, meditation and séances. The most fascinating sections of the narrative chronicle her many encounters with mediums, as Smith seems to find a connection to lost relatives and yet cannot get past her pervasive skepticism. Oddly enough, in attempting to handle her grief, the author largely discounts out of hand any traditional religious avenue (though she did meet with a rabbi), preferring instead to stick firmly to the New-Age road. Death even permeates Smith’s relationships with her daughters, as she worries about the (albeit unlikely) possibility of leaving them alone and motherless at an early age. Each chapter ends with a letter written to her daughters for them to read once she is gone. In the end, Smith’s consolation comes in a realization that we are all part of a greater universe and that our physical deaths are more a change than an end or a beginning. In the meantime, we can only “do the best we can until we get to the other side, whatever that looks like.”

A touch morbid and obsessive, and in the end, probably not all that helpful to those struggling with grief.

Pub Date: April 28th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-59463-306-5
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Hudson Street/Penguin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2015


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