About the Book
As an epilogist, Ben Mendelssohn appreciates an unexpected ending. But when that finale is the untimely demise of his beloved wife in a bizarre accident, Ben is incapable of coping. Marian was more than his life partner; she was the fiber that holds together all that he is, and Ben is willing to end his own life and enter the unknown beyond if it means any chance of getting her back.
One bullet to the brain later, Ben is in the Other World, where he discovers a vast and curiously material existence utterly unlike anything he could have imagined, and where the deceased from every age live an eternal second life. There Ben finds everyone from his grandparents to Marilyn Monroe. But he can’t find Marian.
Desperate for a reunion, no matter the cost, Ben hires an unconventional afterlife investigator to track her down. But as evidence mounts that Marian is actually alive and well and living in Tel Aviv, Ben also uncovers unexpected truths that will haunt him throughout eternity.
368 pages (hardcover)
Published on June 25, 2013 (after being published in Israel several years ago)
Published by Tor
This book was given to me to review by the publisher.
NOTE: This review includes a GIVEAWAY for the book. If you’d like to skip my review and enter the contest, scroll to the end to find out how. If not, read on and enjoy the ride.
The World of the End is one of those books that I really have no idea how to review. It’s truly different than anything I’ve read before, and that’s part of the problem with reviewing it. I’m not sure how to go about doing so without giving anything away, or making a few of my points clear.
The World of the End deals with the dark subject of death which might put some people off. However, when you really boil it down to its roots, death is just something that happens so the author can explore the many facets of love, from love of life, to love of people, and love of self. It’s actually quite fascinating how Gafla goes about exploring such a complex; multi-hued topic like love by counterbalancing it with something like death, a subject which most people will think is incredibly dark, like death. What is even more interesting is how Gafla unashamedly explores how love can be both bright and hopeful, resembling all that is good, and how it can also be a force darker than death.
Life is more of a side story in The World of the End. The real meat of the book takes place in Other World, which is the world people go to once they die. Gafla did some very thoughtful world building without adding religion to it, which was a relief to me. In fact, Other World is like a continuation of life on earth, but better. People live in high rises. They are assigned apartments. They meet family members and have friends and lovers. If they had disabilities in their previous life, they can get them fixed. People called Aliases run the place and take care of the forest which grows trees of life. It’s all rather interesting and while I’d call this more of a character driven novel than anything else, Other World has a wonderful feel to it that makes death feel complex, but welcoming and surprisingly warm.
The main character, Ben, commits suicide on his dead wife’s birthday fourteen months after she died in an effort to meet her on the other side. While most of the story takes place following Ben as he tries to find his surprisingly missing wife and all of the family secrets revealed as he does so, Gafla also returns to Earth every few chapters to focus on other perspectives. For the first forty percent of the novel the chapters have a “short story” feel to them. It doesn’t become clear until about the last forty percent of the book how all of these perspectives fit together. It’s all incredibly intricate and rather amazing how Gafla worked everyone, even people who seemed to have absolutely nothing to do to each other, into a tapestry that was so incredibly tightly woven and used the tapestry to draw out such powerful emotions in his readers.
This is also what might bother some readers more than anything else. There does seem to be a nearly endless introduction of perspectives in The World of the End. While the “short story” feel to some of the chapters was rather refreshing to me, and they do all add up to give the reader an incredibly well rounded and insightful look at the surprising light and dark of subjects that we generally only think of in one way, if you aren’t a reader who likes being introduced to characters throughout a novel, this might frustrate you. Furthermore, some of the characters really only appear once, or appear far after they are first introduced so it is hard to remember who they are. For example, one chapter is a suicide letter written to some friends (it’s not as horrible as it sounds) and that’s the only time those two people are focused on in the entire book. There are a few others like that which were really basically just incredibly short stories thrown in to add dimension to the overall themes.
Additionally, while Ben is the protagonist, he’s so involved with finding his lost wife that he really never gets fleshed out past that. You learn small details about his life, like he was a writer and his wife was a language teacher. This is probably purposeful, as the true focus of the book is on the themes of love and death. They are such overpowering themes that they almost seem like characters in and of themselves. Readers will feel for Ben’s seemingly hopeless plight, while on the flip side, there is another character who is almost his polar opposite and turns love into a weapon of sorts and uses it to harm. It’s fascinating how Gafla creates characters who seem to be tools to expose readers to larger themes, and how incredibly effective that is.
The plot moves forward at a steady clip. There are some detours and it seems like Ben’s conclusion with finding his dead wife is a bit rushed after he drags his feet a little toward the middle, but it all comes together nicely. On the earth side of things, there is one point toward the end where Ben’s polar opposite character comes to her own conclusion and someone appears out of basically nowhere, which caused me to feel a bit jolted and wondering why exactly that event was necessary (I don’t know how else to say that without giving anything away). However, I easily overlooked that as the rest of the novel was so tightly woven.
The ending is rather bitter sweet, and while some of the mystery behind Marian will be obvious to readers about sixty percent through the book, it’s still fascinating to watch everything unfold in tandem on earth and in the Other World. The World of the End ends on the perfect note for such a somber (yet there is some humor) novel. There’s a stark reality that Ben has to face and Gafla isn’t afraid to show readers a new facet of love, even in the last few pages.
The World of the End was a novel I started reading not knowing what to expect, and once I was about thirty percent in, I realized I couldn’t put it down. It’s intricate, deep, thoughtful, emotional and topped off with some wonderful writing. No wonder it has won two well-deserved awards. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read before. That’s, perhaps, the best thing I can say about it. It is truly unique and is so powerfully thought provoking that is has stuck with me well after I finished it.
1. This contest is only open to residents of the United States
2. This contest will be open to enter until Friday, July 26 at midnight, Mountain Time.
3. To enter this giveaway, leave a comment on this review stating that you wish to be entered into the giveaway.
4. I will announce the winner on Monday, July 29th and contact them via email. If they do not answer within two days, another winner will be chosen.