I received this book from the author, Andrew Biss, through Book Blogs Giveaway. (Thanks, Andrew!).
Accustomed to a life of cosseted seclusion at home with his parents, Valentine is suddenly faced with making his own way in the world. His new life is quickly upended, however, when he's mugged at gunpoint. Finding shelter at a mysterious inn run by the dour Mrs. Anna, he soon encounters a Bosnian woman with a hole where her stomach used to be, an American entrepreneur with a scheme to implant televisions into people's foreheads, and a Catholic priest who attempts to lure him down inside a kitchen sink. Then things start getting strange...
In this story based loosely around the state of Bardo from The Tibetan Book of the Dead - an intermediate state where the dead arrive prior to rebirth - dying is the easy part. Getting out of Bardo and returning to the land of the living is a far more perilous proposition, and unless you know what you're doing...you might never leave.
I enjoyed the book for many different reasons. It's so easy to question what happens after you die and I find it intriguing what others' opinions are on this topic. Biss' was a very different opinion and I liked its originality. I have to say, overall I think the book was a little too short. I would have preferred a little more detail about the time with his parents and why they acted the way they did towards him. At first, I didn't know if he was living in some sort of dystopian society or if his parents were just flat out weird. All we got were snippets of some of the "lessons" he was taught that didn't even remotely prepare him for being on his own in the outside world. I feel like this part of the novel wasn't very well developed. I did, however, like his time at the inn. I feel like in those pages Valentine was forced to wake up and grow up, and he developed a lot during his short time there. I love the fact that it brought questions into my head regarding the afterlife and what I think I'll make of it, and for that, many kudos, Mr. Biss.
I think that this book was a good quick read about things maybe we don't talk about as much as we should and it gave me a lot to think about. I am also very thankful that my parents didn't kick me out on my booty before I was ready to see the world!! Great overall plot line and character.