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by James Kimmel, Jr.

Pub Date: Nov. 8th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-399-15969-5
Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Kimmel pays readers a supreme compliment here by inviting them to take seriously the theological question of the Last Judgment.

Lawyer Brek Cuttler wakes up one day to find herself in Shemaya, the land of the dead, where she’s not only been called to account, but has been chosen to put her post-mortem legal skills to work. The circumstances of her death are hazy, even to her, but as the story unfolds, some dense and troubling images, as well as some kind and soothing ones from her past, assault her. She aches at the loss of her husband, Bo, a television reporter who’s recently been doing undercover work and has infiltrated a white supremacist organization, and she grieves her separation from her one-year-old daughter, Sarah. Kimmel’s narrative weaves together four generations of Brek’s family both in life and in death. She also finds out that in Shemaya, she is able to inhabit the consciousness of other people, so she feels their lives subjectively, from the inside. Particularly troubling is her inner experience of Ott Bowles, a young white supremacist who kidnapped Brek and her daughter, an event that, it turns out, led to her death. Along the way, we have extended discussions about issues of justice, mercy and most of all, forgiveness. We learn, for example, that Noah’s Flood “changed...the very essence of God’s relationship to man, not man’s relationship to God. God changed His ways. We didn’t change ours.” Much of this theological and moral framework is provided by Luas, the High Jurisconsult of Shemaya and mentor of Brek in these shadow lands.

Although occasionally overly discursive, Kimmel presents here an intriguing, intricate and metaphysical novel—not your typical fare.