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Jim Byrd is not really obsessed with death, mortality, and ghosts, but after a peculiar health scare, he can't avoid them. From cryonics to psychic mediums, he seems haplessly fated to encounter the full range of mortality cures. Central among them--and deservedly central in this book--is a staircase at the back of an old house where supernatural physics seem to be in control. As a mini-prologue to each chapter, Pierce lays out a montage of events in the life of previous residents and their families. At first these vignettes seem to support a little ghost story. But by the end, they resolve brilliantly into a poignant comment on Jim's misadventures, and what at first was a story concentrated on death and the hereafter satisfyingly becomes a novel about the ephemeral fragility of life itself.
The Afterlives by Thomas Pierce ($27.00*, Riverhead Books), recommended by Turnrow Books, Greenwood, MS.