Published in America by Reputation Books in September 2016.
Where to buy this book:
Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
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How I got this book:
Won in an iRead Book Tours giveaway
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
What if you could choose your heaven now? Go on a celestial shopping trip of sorts? Thirty-five-year-old Vivienne does just that, as she lies dying in the ICU; a fatal walk into the path of a truck. In her final week of life, Vivienne treks through the Heavens of a priest, a best friend, a homeless child, and a lover who never was. Vivienne's guardian angel, Noah, who may just be her soul mate, escorts her through selections of Heavens and through the confusion Vivienne experiences as she flounders between a doubt of life and the certainty of death. Although her visits to varied afterlives provide peace and beauty, choosing proves not so easy: Vivienne's love for her young son and her earthly father pull her from her colorful journey--and from her divine love of Noah.
The nature of love, the variety and magic of life, unending hope, and the importance of saying goodbye are central to this uplifting tale.
I am not sure that I have ever read a book quite like The Extraordinary Journey Of Vivienne Marshall before! It's gorgeous cover art seemed to grace every other book blog last year so I was delighted to win my own copy, although waited until the hype had faded somewhat before reading it so that I wasn't unduly influenced by excessive expectations!
I was reminded a little in the subject matter of The Lovely Bones and in the glorious use of colour and imagery of I'll Give You The Sun, but this novel certainly makes a strong impression of its own. A blend of vivid imagined afterlife scenes, stark Intensive Care hospital rooms, and remembered childhoods, I did worry that the novel would be too mawkish and sentimental for my tastes, but Kirk manages to mostly avoid falling into such traps. I liked her strong character creations with nurse Marty, lost love Noah and, of course, spitfire Vivienne herself being particularly memorable. She also judges her atmospherics very well with real tear-jerking scenes being followed by humour or pure romance so, while I was frequently saddened by the predicaments in which our protagonists found themselves, I was never left so upset as to have to cease reading. It is a shame that careless editorial word choices (a castle moAT for example!) occasionally jarred so badly as to snap me out of the novel's mood.
As a non-religious person, I was still able to appreciate Kirk's Heavens and the beautiful way in which she describes the details of each one. The candy shop tower of the Argentine boy is poignant, especially when contrasted with the continued affluence of the American family. This was perhaps the part I found least believable - even when set against the Heavens! - because surely the hospital bills for so much ill health within the two families would have left them destitute? However, if you can set such realism aside and go with the flow, this is a fantastically romantic and ultimately uplifting read.
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Books by Shannon Kirk / Romance fiction / Books from America