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A dead woman’s spirit hovers reproachfully over her unfaithful husband in this corny modern take on It’s a Wonderful Life.

British debut author Lindsay requires a major suspension of disbelief from readers of 54-year-old Kate’s fairy-tale-like narration. Having just expired in a Dublin hospital after a long, ghastly struggle with cancer, Kate is unpleasantly surprised by her first post-death discovery: William, her husband of nearly three decades, has been having an affair for ten years with her best friend, Veronica. Before Kate can rest, she has to put things right by rendering controlling, unfeeling William contrite and by bringing home their only child, Celia, who eight years ago fled his autocratic rule over their household in Ireland’s Wicklow Mountains. The ghostly Kate flies above mere mortals making mischief. She prompts elegant Veronica’s cat to attack her, and she communicates directly with Celia’s young son, Matt, when she finds them living alone and fatherless in France. Kate learns that she’s “in some sort of Limbo” where “the Presence is ever present.” She has to work in tandem with Thomas, a hip black angel who likes jazz and continually urges her to concentrate and work patiently for best results, such as learning more about William’s unhappy childhood and loss of faith. “Girl, you don’t stop learning just because you’ve died!” cries Thomas cheeringly, in one typically exultant passage. If the reader can swallow the premise and Kate’s ability to “osmose” from place to place, then the story does offer some saccharine rewards. But lively dialogue and an affecting portrayal of a boy who desperately needs grandmotherly guidance and love make a peculiar contrast with the appallingly realistic portrait of passive, self-deprecating Kate’s marriage to bloodless medieval scholar William. In the end, our poor doormat does manage to empower herself up in the clouds.

A very, very long stretch, but some readers just might go for this mind-altering story of life after death.

Pub Date: April 15th, 2005
ISBN: 0-312-33874-0
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2005