In Gilvezan’s (Bumblebee & Me, 2011, etc.) metaphysical mystery, an angelic being arrives on Earth to save the human race from a pandemic of infertility.
When the entire planet fails to conceive, a disembodied soul volunteers to inhabit the body of a random man named Jack Tyler after he dies of a heart attack. The unnamed protagonist does more than take over Jack’s physical form, though: he tries to make amends with Jack’s estranged wife, Lorraine; care for Jack’s children, Katie and Tommy; and work Jack’s job at an insurance company. As he struggles to adapt to mortal existence, he realizes that the original Jack was a selfish, hard-drinking, money-grubbing egotist. The new version of Jack attempts to solve those personal problems while also figuring out why no women can become pregnant. Eventually, he faces Gabriel, a “rogue soul” with a vendetta against humanity. When Jack learns of Gabriel’s abusive family and tragic past, he seems unimpressed: “You were badly used by a handful of ignorant, bigoted people,” he says. “But to wipe out the entire race because of it? That seems a bit harsh.” Gabriel never comes up with a convincing counterargument, and this flaw impairs the rest of the narrative. The novel’s premise is imaginative, but the mechanics of this supernatural existence seem inconsistent: the soul that inhabits Jack’s body can walk, talk, use the Internet, and discuss divorce proceedings, but he doesn’t know phrases such as, “What’s his deal?” or “She’s quite a fox.” Some of these interactions are funny, and it’s enjoyable to watch the new Jack puzzle out the old Jack’s life, but his aw-shucks confusion can sometimes seem hammy and tedious. The spirit that inhabits Jack’s body is a die-hard do-gooder without much back story, making him a lackluster hero. He faces off with his nemesis several times, and the finale is a satisfying mix of action, suspense, and even some high jinks. The last chapter, in particular, will make readers consider what human existence would mean if all of one’s memories were inherited from another person.
An often charming, if predictable, story about life, afterlife, and the gray area in between.