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Man dies, gets to hover around and check out what the family is up to.

In the latest example of our recent obsession with a nonsectarian afterlife, Duncan (I, Lucifer, 2003, etc.) takes your ordinary recently dead schmoe, Nathan Clark, and puts him in the ectoplasmic ether, floating through the lives and thoughts of his family and friends. In a well-rendered but confusing start, Nathan requires considerable time to get his bearings and figure out why all those people are staring at his grave. It takes some time for the reader, too, to get acclimated inside Nathan’s head, which is, not surprisingly, buzzing with questions but also seems to be meshing with the thoughts of the people he’s watching. With a certain guilty voyeurism, he takes an eye to what his daughter Gina is up to, as to whether she’s sleeping with that none-too-trustworthy boyfriend of hers (Duncan makes little attempt to play down the more naturally prurient aspects of Nathan’s and in fact seems to revel in them). Nathan also delves into his relationship with his wife, Cheryl, a spiky-tempered ball of trouble whom he hasn’t really been able to connect with since the tragic death of their younger daughter, Lois. The men in Nathan’s life aren’t any easier: his father is a remote and sad fellow, his son Luke a basically good but distant and hard-to-figure kid. There’s an affair here for Nathan to uncover, as well as a room in his house he can’t quite bring himself to go into—and then, too, there’s the matter of the reason behind his restless ghostly wanderings in the first place. Duncan’s portrayal of the afterlife is refreshingly unsentimental, and he has plenty of talent to spare on the highs, lows, and everyday frustrations of family life, but it’s hard even so for the attention not to wander.

The life and times of an ordinary man, with longueurs and lack of drama intact.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-8021-7004-8
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Black Cat/Grove
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2004


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