AFTER LIFE by Rhian Ellis
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First-novelist Ellis makes an auspicious debut with this imaginatively rendered psychological suspense thriller set in an upstate New York town inhabited entirely by mediums and spiritualists.

Naomi Ash has a secret she's kept for ten years. She knows where a body is buried—not because she's a medium and converses with dead spirits, but because it’s the corpse of her boyfriend, and she's the one who buried it. Now 31, Naomi came to Train Line, New York, where spiritualists live and ply their trade, as a child, when her mother (herself a medium) moved there from New Orleans. Following in her mother's footsteps, Naomi `sees` dead people for a living, although it’s such a meager one that she must also take odd jobs, including baby-sitting and working in a library, to make ends meet. She’s going nowhere and remains haunted by the ten-year-old murder that resulted in her planting a visiting grad student in a secret location. But now that her boyfriend’s body has been found, Naomi knows it's only a matter of time before he's identified and she falls under suspicion. In impeccable prose, Ellis weaves a fascinating tale of guilt and redemption. She also plumbs the depths of spiritualism: What is real and what isn't? Where does life begin, and where, if ever, does it end? “My empty heart was collapsing in on itself,” Naomi muses. “A lonely life is a crime without witnesses, it is a movie playing in a locked theater; can you ever be sure what happens in it? Can you be sure that it happens at all?” Similarly exquisite writing can be found throughout this well-crafted tale. Ellis encourages readers to see their own fears and longings in the eccentric inhabitants of a highly unusual town, reminding us that most differences are simply matters of appearance.

Impressively assured and insightful.

Pub Date: July 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-670-89242-4
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2000