Thomas Nelson Books, May 3, 2016.
There Will Be Stars is a quirky southern gothic with a rather slow pace. The novel shares it’s setting of Mattingly with several other books by Coffey – each can be read on its own, but many of the same characters pop up throughout the novels. This novel focuses on Bobby, a man who is unlikely to reach old age due to his heavy drinking. Although he is aware of his dangerous behavior, he still takes his young twin sons out for a drive late at night, drinking a six-pack of beers along the way. Bobby’s truck goes off the road, swerving to avoid another vehicle – Bobby’s last thought is “there will be stars.”
With Bobby’s final conscious thought, he is expecting death and nothingness, but instead he awakens to the dawn of the day he has just lived – and must re-live over and over again. He is not alone in this purgatory, but instead he shares it with six other people, all of whom are repeatedly experiencing their own final days. Many of them are resigned to their fate, complacent and even somewhat content – they have formed a little family in this other world. Bobby, however, thinks he can change the results of his final day, although it continues to have the same ending.
Although at first the odd collection of people seem to be working together to make the best of their situation, not all is as it seems – some of the group are actually dangerous, concealing dark secrets. As their fragile world begins to fall apart, Bobby tries to escape with some others, and none of them are sure whether they are in heaven or hell.
The alternate world has an ethereal feel, emphasized by its Christian themes of purgatory, punishment and rebirth, as well as its exploration of the human condition. Bobby especially is seeking to understand his role in the world, which is called “The Turn” – he is the catalyst for change in this other place, although he doesn’t understand why. The horrifying details of how each person ended up there bring some darkness to the novel, keeping it from being too preachy or cute.
The novel is unique because it encompasses so many different genres, although it is most of all a suspenseful spiritual fantasy. It is an interesting concept, but I found it really hard to get into, and found myself confused most of the time – it probably deserves a re-read to catch all the details. I think this book is best treated as a philosophical think-piece, as it meandered through questions of life and death. Regardless of my confusion, I couldn’t put it down because I needed to know how it ended, and I’m glad I stuck it out for Bobby’s final moments.
I received this novel from Thomas Nelson Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.