This book was different from anything I have ever read. I'm always amazed at the vast imaginary worlds a writer can imagine and create.
Book Title: The Extraordinary Journey of Vivienne Marshall by Shannon Kirk
Category: Adult Fiction, 295 pages
Publisher: Reputation Books
Release date: September 6, 2016
Tour dates: Jan 16 to Feb 3, 2017
Content Rating: PG-13 (Contains a couple of non-explicit, but rather set in impressionist tones, sex scenes.)
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.
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Thirty-five-year-old Vivienne Marshall is hit by a truck and ends up fighting for her life in the ICU before she dies. During her time in the hospital, she vacillates between the time she wakes up in excruciating pain while on earth and the time she slips into a heavenly realm while out cold from the heavy painkiller meds. Throughout these two states, we get to learn about Vivienne's life from her childhood to her present-day status as mother to her eight-year-old son Ivan.
The story moves back and forth through different time periods and at one point also shifts to her son's point-of-view and his life almost one hundred years into the future. It took me time to adjust to the continuing shifts and changes of scenery and realms, but once the story got rolling, I couldn't help but become invested in Shannon Kirk's lively storytelling and her characters.
To be clear, while a lot of this story takes place in the heavenly realm, it isn't the Biblical heaven that is being referred, but more of a fantastical world created by the person whose heaven one is visiting. It is the afterlife of one's making, and resembles more of one's personal view of earthly paradise. Interestingly, the Bible refers to heaven as God's abode and the earth as man's (Psalm 115:15) and promises everlasting life on a paradisaical earth (Psalm 37:29), so it was not surprising at all that the heavens imagined in this book contain all the elements of life on earth.
Being a mother myself, I have to say it was difficult reading about mothers and sons being separated by death. My heart constricted at the thought of losing my son or of my son losing me while yet being a child. The themes of motherly love, friendship and loss are strong in this book, but it was hopeful and poignant. And does one ever forget their first love, especially if that love spanned many years?
Shannon Kirk has spun an unforgettable tale, with a feisty heroine, a compassionate man-nurse named Marty, and a soul-mate named Noah. I was intrigued with the role that the book The One and Only Ivan played in this story, to the point that it made me want to read it.
I would recommend this book to any who enjoy good storytelling with magical realism.