A strangely effective blend: an optimistic book about suicide.


A fast-paced fantasy novel about suicide and what comes after.

Steven, the narrator of Stevenson and Azad’s engaging fiction debut, just killed himself. It’s an unusual storytelling twist, one that, had this book been written at almost any other point in Christianity’s 2,000-year history, would have been followed by Steven finding himself in hell (in the Seventh Circle, according to Dante), destined to spend eternity being punished for the sin of self-murder. But in this novel’s much warmer, more humanistic world, Steven—a foulmouthed, excitable 34-year-old with a heart of gold—awakens in heaven, assured by both God and Jesus (who’s nicknamed “Junior”) that there is no actual place of eternal damnation. “[H]ell can be anywhere,” he’s told, with the shrewd elaboration: “Right before you pulled that trigger, I’m sure that you would describe how you were feeling as something close to what has been described by others as hell.” And this isn’t the only variation on standard Christian theology in this remarkable book; in a nod to Eastern mythologies, souls here—including Steven’s—return to the world again, to live new and hopefully better lives. Over the course of the novel, Steven has many lively conversations with God and Jesus on a wide range of philosophical subjects, and he’s given plenty of straightforward advice that will resonate with the book’s Christian readers, especially those whose lives have been touched by suicide. Steven is assured that “wonderful things will happen to you every day if you stick around and keep exploring your own mysteries,” and his life “will be better spent down there if it is an activity that results in a story, and not the other way around.” Whether Steven will succeed in his new life —i.e., put away childish behavior, live in faith, maybe even this time win the love of a pretty girl—isn’t clear. It rarely is.

A strangely effective blend: an optimistic book about suicide.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-1491756164

Page Count: 284

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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These letters from some important executive Down Below, to one of the junior devils here on earth, whose job is to corrupt mortals, are witty and written in a breezy style seldom found in religious literature. The author quotes Luther, who said: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." This the author does most successfully, for by presenting some of our modern and not-so-modern beliefs as emanating from the devil's headquarters, he succeeds in making his reader feel like an ass for ever having believed in such ideas. This kind of presentation gives the author a tremendous advantage over the reader, however, for the more timid reader may feel a sense of guilt after putting down this book. It is a clever book, and for the clever reader, rather than the too-earnest soul.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1942

ISBN: 0060652934

Page Count: 53

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1943

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Stunningly original and altogether arresting.


An exquisite critique of patriarchal culture from the author of All My Puny Sorrows (2014).

The Molotschna Colony is a fundamentalist Mennonite community in South America. For a period of years, almost all the women and girls have awakened to find themselves bloodied and bruised, with no memories of what might have happened in the night. At first, they assumed that, in their weakness, they were attracting demons to their beds. Then they learn that, in fact, they have been drugged and raped repeatedly by men of the colony. It’s only when one woman, Salome, attacks the accused that outside authorities are called—for the men’s protection. While the rest of the men are away in the city, arranging for bail, a group of women gather to decide how they will live after this monstrous betrayal. The title means what it says: This novel is an account of two days of discussion, and it is riveting and revelatory. The cast of characters is small, confined to two families, but it includes teenage girls and grandmothers and an assortment of women in between. The youngest form an almost indistinguishable dyad, but the others emerge from the formlessness their culture tries to enforce through behavior, dress, and hairstyle as real and vividly compelling characters. Shocked by the abuse they have endured at the hands of the men to whom they are supposed to entrust not only their bodies, but also their souls, these women embark on a conversation that encompasses all the big questions of Christian theology and Western philosophy—a ladies-only Council of Nicea, Plato’s Symposium with instant coffee instead of wine. This surely is not the first time that these women are thinking for themselves, but it might be the first time they are questioning the male-dominated system that endangered them and their children, and it is clearly the first time they are working through the practical ramifications of what they know and what they truly believe. It’s true that the narrator is a man, but that’s of necessity. These women are illiterate and therefore incapable of recording their thoughts without his sympathetic assistance.

Stunningly original and altogether arresting.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63557-258-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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