A whimsical debut novel in which Bernard makes heaven the setting for a story of love and self-actualization.
Some say heaven is a place where everything is fine; others say it's a place where nothing ever happens. In Bernard’s version of the afterlife, both of these things are true. Heaven houses dull bureaucrats milling about in assigned jobs and marriages, socializing and playing “awful, awful golf.” So many people make meanings of their lives based on their conceptions of the afterlife, but if “the general outline of meaninglessness always remains,” what then? Well, if you’re Bernard’s narrator, you get attached to your work researching people on Earth who lived peculiar lives—in particular, the romance between Carmelo (befuddled academic) and Tetty (young and beautiful, of course). It’s the narrator’s job “to find the individual’s essential soul, the characteristics that define it,” though soon, as he begins falling for Tetty and interfering in her life, his work becomes personal. Meanwhile, the saddest people (if that’s the right word) in heaven begin to disappear without explanation, and the narrator’s wife becomes fascinated—even going so far as to throw a party with an offbeat theme: “the vanishing people.” Bernard moves between heaven and the story of Carmelo and Tetty on Earth—specifically, the narrator’s story of the two lovers, which he writes for work. Not all the meta elements work here, and not everything that happens on Earth is interesting or unique. But in heaven? Well, it takes a good writer to populate the afterlife with flying people; it takes a true original to point out that, after a while, everyone gets sick of the flying people and the traffic jams they cause.
A highly enjoyable—and intermittently profound—debut.