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A woman tells her husband to die, and he does it. And a kid learns to read!

June 10, 2013 by Reader's Connection

TITLERussell Schaeffer is an impossible husband, and one evening his wife Boyd says, “Do me a favor, Russell. Die.” And the next day, he dies.

Life after Death, a novel by Carol Muske-Dukes, isn’t a murder mystery, but it does spend wondering how this death came to be, and what Russell’s–or anyone’s–life means. Will Youngren, who runs the funeral business that he inherited, is attracted to Boyd; and if you’re thinking that the two of them will open up to each other, you won’t be disappointed. But that opening is complicated, sometimes funny, and now and then literally subterranean.

Boyd attempts to re-enter a profession from which she had lapsed, as an ob-gyn, so between her and her funeral director, readers have intimate encounters with life’s beginning and its end. Novelist Muske-Dukes is also a poet, and it shows in the way she weaves this material together.

Not only that! There’s a scene in which Boyd’s four-year-old daughter Freddy realizes that letters come together to form words which mean something. There may be dozens of such episodes scattered through other novels, but I haven’t lucked upon many of them. Even if Freddy’s moment of literacy weren’t tied up with the loss of her father, I would have found this scene moving.

Life after Death on downloadable e-bookFreddy’s mom is moved, too. By a fluke, she happens to be at the preschool, watching Freddy catch on, and Boyd knows what she’s seeing.

Laurie Lou steps back into the observation room with a blue plastic cup of orange juice for Boyd.
“She seems much happier today. A little distracted, but really happy,” she says, but Boyd does not turn to look at her. Boyd is watching hungrily through the glass, watching Freddy stand up in the sunlight and smile all around her . . .

Life after Death is also available as a downloadable e-book

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