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The Writer's Afterlife    by Richard Vetere order for
Writer's Afterlife
by Richard Vetere
Order:  USA  Can
Three Rooms Press, 2014 (2014)
Softcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

Tom Chillo has published two novels and eight plays, as well as sharing credits for writing four screenplays, and considers himself an excellent writer. He tells us at the beginning of The Writer's Afterlife that he 'died typing midsentence in a T-shirt and boxer shorts in front of his computer.'

He was working on a screenplay that 'wasn't much of a challenge, though he was trying his best to make sense out of the story. It was a typical writing assignment his agent would get him: idiosyncratic characters and quirky dialogue that nearly everyone with Final Draft believed they could mimic just by watching 'Goodfellas.'' He's annoyed that he has died at 44 of a stroke while working on the screenplay rather than on another novel that he has wanted to write. Since he considers himself a great writer, he's even more upset to discover that the afterlife where he finds himself is the Valley of Those on the Verge for writers who did not achieve greatness during their lifetime.

He is given one week to return to life to see if he can influence someone still living to promote his existing work in such a way that he will be reclassified a great writer in the afterlife. If he can accomplish that, he will be eligible to move to a better afterlife where the Eternals live. Tom apparently wrote books and plays that had realistic, well-developed characters and plots, and he was so dedicated to his art that he expended all of his time and energy creating stories and had little real feeling for any of the important people in his life, such as his girlfriend, Sarah, who loved him. He saw her crying at his funeral and was surprised that his agent didn't even attend the funeral. His elderly father was there, but he was so forgetful that Tom thought he didn't even understand what was going on.

Tom's afterlife is perfect in every way but one. He feels a nagging anxiety about never having accomplished his goal in life of becoming a great writer, and apparently he will always feel that anxiety as long as he stays in the Valley of Those on the Verge. He can leave that valley and go to the place where ordinary people go, but his dedication to his craft won't allow him to do that.

This book contains humorous situations and funny lines, but the subject matter doesn't come across as that funny because Tom is so unhappy with his in-between situation. In life he was a shallow person who never cared for anyone but himself and his own ambitions, although during his struggles to create a lasting name for his work, he seems to become aware of the sort of person he was. The idea that personal growth can occur after death is a new one for me. Several of the other characters, such as Sarah, and Danni, a girl he meets during his trip back to life, seem more likeable, if only because they have the ability to love others which Tom lacked when he was alive.

I found it hard to care what happened to Tom because of his single-minded ambition. Unfortunately, not caring about the main character makes it difficult for me to continue to read a novel. I did forge ahead, however, and found that things picked up somewhat during the second half of the book which came to a satisfying conclusion.

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