I distinctly remember it being bright and sunny outside when I snuggled into my couch to read this book. By the time I finished, it was dark and past dinner time. I can’t remember consuming a book this intensely in a long while. I lost all sense of time, something the characters would experience throughout the book too.
The plot is brilliant. Barely halfway through, (and this is the only time I recollect pausing) I began wondering who would play the roles of the characters of this book in a big screen adaptation. At the onset, a troubled young Portia Goldman must face facts; she is dead. There is no chorus of angels, angelic beings or deceased relatives to receive her. There is no white light and certainly no sign pointing to the pearly gates of heaven. Instead, author Clare Wilson sets the stage for a life between heaven and earth.
There is nothing cold, dark or dreary about how Wilson handles death and the afterlife. In fact, she is quite creative and witty about it. Being exempt from physical laws that govern us mortals does not mean you can do exactly as you please. This is still a world in which haunting relatives and sticking your head through the door to spy on them is socially unacceptable as the elegant Mary, Portia’s only guide of sorts to the spirit world explains.
Portia quickly learns that dead or alive, there will always be those who feed off your weaknesses and after a scary encounter with a ghoul, she finds that the afterlife can come with some pleasant surprises too. It all begins when Mary agrees to take her home until she is better accustomed to her new world. For the first time in her life…err, death, she finds a real friendship with the shy Beth who shows her how easy it is to find happiness in the little things; love in David who helps ground her; and the kindness and support from the residents at Havenshaw Manor, a derelict countryside property that they call home.
Nonetheless, her road to happiness is rocky. Portia is torn between looking after her fragile living family and hiding away in her spirit world. Life has not been easy for her younger sister Susan and her father since her mother left them and she died. After witnessing a real crossover, she becomes fixated with the idea of heaven and soon becomes desperate to find a way there. There are too many unanswered questions. Why did her mother leave them? What were the circumstances surrounding her death? Why was she not allowed into heaven? If there were a way to sneak into heaven, would she be happy without David? Would there be a way to take her new family with her too?
Eventually, Portia must uncover the truth to find where she belongs. And guess where that happens? In a waiting room in heaven…