Thursday, December 22, 2011

"Woke Up In A Strange Place"

Review - "Woke Up In A Strange Place" by Eric Arvin

Stunning and a revelation

VERY Highly Recommended

Joe wakes up in a field of barley.  Naked, alone and with no memory of anything except his name.  He knows he is dead, but of his life prior to this - nothing.  He's not scared, just curious.

As he begins looking around, he sees a dog in the distance, and is greeted by a man he doesn't know, whom he dubs The Stranger.  Strangely familiar, he senses a connection, but The Stranger tells him he will remember in time, everything in time.  And he will be waiting.  When The Stranger leaves, Joe senses a restlessness and begins to walk.  Starting his journey. And has his first memory - he is a little boy, walking with his mother and spies another little boy with his mother.  Louis.

He soon comes upon a huge, wonderful tree, with a house built among the branches.  The sound of music draws him in, and there he meets Bailey, who will be his Guide through this journey.  He is expected. 

And so begins Joe's journey to reclaim the memories of his life, and to discover truths, some familiar, some long buried and forgotten.  Some painful, some joyful.  Some a revelation, some obvious.

"It's interesting," Joe said, "how a heart can break just as easily in heaven as it can on earth."

The best writers keep their ideas simple, their narrative clean and uncomplicated, their characters honest and within themselves, and treat the reader with respect and integrity.  And Eric Arvin delivers. 

Take a man.  Have him relive the memories of the people and events most important in his life.  Have him come to peace with them.  So utterly simplistic, so cunningly devastating.  And so heartbreaking.  And, but oh Christ did this book break my heart.  This simple, joyous, stunning jewel of a book, just took it and splintered it and put it back together and make me whole. 

This book was quite simply a revelation.

The characters were amazing - from Joe to Bailey to 3P to Grandpa Joe to his Grandmother, Violet, Declan, Guy.  Again, simple.  The people that color and give texture to his life (our lives), laid bare in burst after burst of love and family and friendship and pain and joy and life.  All the "ah hah" minutes.  The misunderstandings, the losses, the hurts.  And he has a chance to forgive, heal, celebrate.

And the prose.  Mr. Arvin takes the words and makes hymns, love songs to my heart and soul.  Quiet, gentle truths.
"No, if there were a true hell, it lay at the bottom of the sea, and was populated by every regret one ever had."

"He felt a connection forming between them, like a bridge being built with invisible but sturdy stones."

"And they realized forgiveness was the greatest gift they could give themselves or anyone around them."

And then, and then we find out all that we want to know at the end.  How Joe died.  What happened to Lou.  Who Bailey is.  Who The Stranger is.  Answer after answer, brick after brick, tear after tear.  Till this beautiful, loving man - not special, just one of us - is whole again, complete with his soul mate and his family.

"All of it but a simple, longed-for embrace neither time nor death could contain."

Please, let us all have this.  Because if Mr. Arvin can dream it, can't it be? 

If you haven't read this book, do yourself a favor.  Buy it.  Read it.  Share it.



  1. I'm reading this book at the moment, just over a third in, and I'm loving it.

  2. With very good reason, it's nominated this year for a Lamda Literary Award in fantasy. It's a great story, and a wonderful read.

  3. Excellent review, Tom. Couldn't agree more.