Phoebe McCleary is the kind of protagonist the reader wants to protect. Over the last few years, we quickly learn, she’s been living a waking nightmare; her husband, dead to a car accident, her father dead to a heart attack, and her mother slowly fading away before Phoebe’s eyes as she succumbs to dementia in a nearby nursing home. Somehow she’s made it through – but when her work at the mortuary suddenly brings her face to face with her own dead double, Phoebe finds herself with questions she can’t leave unanswered.
I was glued to the page right from the jump with In Another Light. It’s not just that Phoebe is an excellent character – the book was just so intriguing from the opening lines. The grief that she carried felt real, and was written heart-breakingly; at the same time, you want to root for this character, to see her find the answers to the questions that she so urgently wants to investigate. There’s an ease to the interactions that she has with other characters that felt very natural, too – I’m willing to suspend my disbelief for a good thriller, but there’s a growing number that ask a lot from the reader in service of the story. Not here though; people react with a realistic mix of compassion and concern, and have their own stories going on in the background.
It’s a heavy hitter, this book, and one you shouldn’t expect to come out of unaffected. It’s not all doom and gloom; far from it, the heavier moments are interspersed with some gorgeous interludes of beautifully-written moments of normal life. Even those good moments, though, affected me emotionally; this is a book that it’s easy to connect to. A.J. Banner has written something very special here.
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