Tuesday, February 02, 2010

30 Days of Recommendations: The Brief History of the Dead

The Brief History of the Dead

by Kevin Brockmeier

What’s it about: When you die, you go to the City, a place where all the recently dead go, and stay there until the last living person who remembers you dies and then passes into the City themselves. Where you go after that is a mystery.

Meanwhile, in the world of the Living, a virus is released that starts killing everyone on earth until the last person alive is Laura, a research scientist in Antarctica. The City begins to be filled with people she remembers – her parents, old boyfriends, a panhandler she once gave money to, her dentist, people important and on the periphery of her life – and who slowly come to realize their common link to Laura and her survival.

Why you should read it: lyrical and moving, this novel will haunt you long after you finish it. Booklust author Nancy Pearl (whose review got me to read this book) said that there’s not a week that went by after she finished it that she does not return to it again and again. A favorite book of mine in 2006.

Opening lines:

"When the blind man arrived in the city, he claimed that he had traveled across a desert of living sand. First he had died, he said, and then–snap!–the desert. He told the story to everyone who would listen, bobbing his head to follow the sound of their footsteps. Showers of red grit fell from his beard. He said that the desert was bare and lonesome and that it had hissed at him like a snake. He had walked for days and days, until the dunes broke apart beneath his feet, surging up around him to lash at his face. Then everything went still and began to beat like a heart. The sound was as clear as any he had ever heard. It was only at that moment, he said, with a million arrow points of sand striking his skin, that he truly realized he was dead."