I hung in there for 395 pages because I was sure there was going to be a big reveal. I was certain there’d be a A-HA moment and all the weirdness would make sense.
There Will Be Stars begins with a drunk guy going for a drive with his two sons in the truck. Already we know something will go wrong. Bobby Barnes dies in a wreck on account of his drunk driving, and apparently so do his twins. Fortunately there are five other people in the small Virginia town of Mattingly who know what walking around dead feels like. These people – a group as diverse as The Breakfast Club – pull Bobby into their daily meal time to enjoy the blessings of their personal heaven.
Their personal heaven, by the way, is one big Groundhog Day after another. It’s a new day for the living, but for the dead, predictability is their way of life, or rather, their way of death. Bobby, still drinking, cannot get on board with their way of coping. He soon learns that his five new family members don’t see his dead twins. (They wait outside during meal time. Are they even dead? If so, what kind of dead?)
Dorothea, called Mama, has a first-hand connection to God. He leaves her notes in the mailbox, which she reads to the motley crew of dead people in her house. Junior is a hot-tempered redneck who has the hots for Laura Beth, a sad girl who doesn’t have the strength to turn away Junior’s affections. George is an academic and disputes the very nature of this strange heaven, while Juliet, a former preacher, is as faithless as George. The only bright light is Tommy, a little kid, who loves his weird little dead makeshift family.
Then, as each person’s story of death is unveiled, literal cracks in heaven emerge. As the cracks emerge, so do the questions. Is this really heaven? Could it be hell? And can anything be done to end the Turn, their word for reaching their moment of death and thereby restarting the Groundhog Day. Leave it to Bobby Barnes, the town drunkard, to figure it out.
I don’t know what to make of this story. I suspect there is deeper meaning that I’m supposed to glean, but what is it? Is this book a plug for purgatory? A second chance to make different choices? Is heaven what we make it? Or am I not smart enough – or spiritual enough – to read a book like this and walk away enlightened?
Someone else please read this book and tell me what to think of it.