A teenager dies and discovers a new world on the other side in Mebane’s debut novel.
Nineteen-year-old Emma Mebane is a bubbly, well-liked college student from a close-knit Chicago-area family. She’s home from school for the summer when the unthinkable happens: She dies suddenly in her sleep. Her friends, family and community are left in a state of shock—how will they go on without her? Emma, however, can see all these events unfolding. After she awakens with her late Aunt Patsy, Grandpa and other loved ones in a place that she calls “After,” she finds that she can invisibly observe and move among her mourning family members. In the weeks following her death, Emma must learn how to balance her “before” life with her afterlife and learn how to tell her family that she is indeed OK in her world while still allowing them to move on in theirs. With help from her late relatives and other old and new friends, Emma learns that love doesn’t end when life does but in fact grows stronger. This book was inspired by the story of Mebane’s real-life daughter, also named Emma. It’s truly a labor of love, and readers can easily imagine Emma’s vivacious love of life. The novel, however, is not without flaws, as the structure can be a bit confusing. For example, each chapter is headed by a different character, a device which muddles the plotline; a more straightforward structure would likely have served the book better. The work also contains many long, hard-to-follow sections of italicized thoughts, mostly Emma’s. Overall, however, the characters are well fleshed out, and each family member offers a different perspective on the process of mourning. It’s shown to be a distinctive experience for every individual, but the stirring moral of each journey remains the same: It will all be OK.
An emotional novel about grief and the enduring power of love after death.