Review: “On The Other Side” by Carrie Hope Fletcher

I had a conversation recently with some of my students about the nature of grief after death; the finality of relationships remaining exactly the way they were when one of you passed on because there is no way to change anything. It was one of those quirky coincidences, then, that I arrived home to a book with a character who manages to do just that. Evie Snow, mother and grandmother, dies and finds herself back at her old apartment building. To pass through to her idea of heaven, all she has to do is open the door of her former apartment – but her soul is too heavy to go through. She must pass through the flimsy film between her purgatory and the world she so recently departed and work out a way to communicate the secrets that she has held onto (so tight, for so many years) to those she left behind.

 The story bounces between flashbacks of Evie’s past and her movements to free herself to move on in the present. We see how she is torn between the love and joy of her life with the musician Vincent and the choice that her parents have made for her and their dynasty in the dutiful and lovely Jim Summers.  Fletcher writes Evie’s pain so realistically that you can feel how conflicted her heart is – can she make the choice to live without love? Is it the right choice?

This novel definitely has a fantastical bent and it did make me laugh at one point – I’m not going to spoil it for you – when I found it hard to suspend my disbelief. So I can believe in the moment of the ability to permeate the barrier between here and the afterlife, I can believe in the use of a bird to carry messages of love written on its wings, but that particular thing is a step too far?? I think that’s probably a fault of mine rather than one on the part of the author. Once I got over that little blip, though, the very notion that I’d struggled with became part of the beauty of the story.
I loved that Fletcher embraces that sometimes, no matter what choice you make, some things will be wrong and some will be very right. Being someone that hopes in a hereafter, even though I have no idea what it looks like, I liked her concept of heaven returning you to the place where you were the happiest that you have ever been. I think that’s beautiful. If you’re in the mood for a love story with a difference, this might just be the book for you.

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