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PASSAGE by Connie Willis Kirkus Star


by Connie Willis

Pub Date: May 8th, 2001
ISBN: 0-553-11124-8
Publisher: Bantam

New contemporary, near-mainstream outing for the celebrated author of To Say Nothing of the Dog (1997), etc. Joanna Lander, a clinical psychologist at Denver's Mercy General hospital, studies patients who've had Near Death Experiences (NDEs). Her biggest problem is Maurice Mandrake, bestselling author and self-appointed life-after-death expert; Mandrake keeps reaching the NDE subjects before Joanna does, inducing them to confabulate, rendering their accounts useless for Joanna's purposes. Worse, he keeps trying to enlist Joanna to his cause. Then Joanna meets neurologist Richard Wright: he's developing a scientific theory about NDEs, using an experimental drug to simulate NDEs while scanning activity in the brain. Joanna agrees to collaborate with Richard, and quickly identifies several of his subjects as Mandrake spies. Another subject abruptly quits, terrified of what she's experienced. So Joanna agrees to attempt the drug-simulated NDE herself. Like many of those she's interviewed, she experiences a long dark passage with a brilliant golden-white light at the end, and sees shadowy figures swathed in white. Are they angels, as Mandrake insists? In further NDE trips, Joanna explores beyond the door at the end of the tunnel—a place oddly familiar, in a way she can't quite recall. Other NDE reports seem to tie in with hers. But Joanna will find to her horror that the distinction between near death and actual death is by no means well defined, and that she's still at the beginning of a long, extraordinary, chilling, fascinating journey.

Once again, Willis has developed an idea that bears all the authority of a genuine insight: disturbingly plausible, compelling, intensely moving, and ultimately uplifting.