Top positive review
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Good can come from the worst of circumstances and this story proves it
on 31 October 2011
"Under-Heaven" follows the paths of two boys' lives. You first meet Jesse, a five-year-old boy who lives in Boston with his mother. He comes from a troubled home and his parents have split up recently. This isn't easy on him as he has fond memories of the three of them as a family. Unfortunately, his father has become a drunk and drug addict which has caused a lot of problems. Jesse wants his parents to reconcile, as he loves his father a lot and misses him, but also knows his mother can't handle his dad under the current circumstances. In the boy's young mind, he doesn't understand why things have changed so much and he is willing to try anything to fix them. Unfortunately, it may be a task too great for his small shoulders to handle alone.
The other boy, Nate, also has a strong presence in the novel. He died at the age of nine in the 1940s and went to a place called "Under-Heaven". This isn't necessarily a bad place, more of a transition point for most souls. Yet Nate can't resolve the tragedy that happened in his past life to move on. For awhile, he can't even allow himself to remember it, but knows that unlocking the mystery behind his death is key to knowing what step he must take next in his afterlife. It is not something he is capable of for a long time, though, and the novel follows his experiences in "Under-heaven" and the other souls and angels he meets there who try to help him.
I must say this book was difficult for me in the beginning. It starts in a dark place for both boys and felt rather depressing. The multiple points of view also caused me some trouble until I got into the flow of the story, but I stuck with it believing it would get better. As it turned out, I was right. Somewhere around the fifteen percent mark, the novel picked up speed and the suspense became intense. I found myself getting attached to both boys and needing to know what would happen to them. They came alive for me and I knew at some point the author would entwine their stories together, despite the time difference. How exactly this happens, I won't say, but it wasn't in the way I anticipated. The depth of the novel is far greater than one can even predict.
For those considering this book, I would say that if you are like me, it may be tough to get through at first. Do not let that deter you, because the story progresses and once you reach a certain point, it will be nearly impossible to put down. So many unexpected events happen and you meet some very interesting characters in addition to the main two boys. The way the author gets inside these kids heads is amazing and you will feel like you are right there with them, suffering through the hard times and smiling through the good. When the conclusion came, I found myself misty eyed as all the pieces came together, even parts I hadn't considered as significant.
If you are interested in alternative versions of the afterlife and enjoy stories where something good comes from tragedy, this is the perfect story to read. "Under-Heaven" will touch you in ways you cannot even imagine and bring a whole new perspective to how you view the world. I certainly enjoyed it and plan to read the novel again!