3 out of 4 stars
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Vivienne Marshall is 35 years old. She's on her way home from work, checking her phone while walking, when she's sideswiped by a car and gets sent to the ICU. Her diagnosis is grim, and while she lies dying, she's visited by her not-husband (it's a long story that eventually gets told), her son, and her flamboyant nurse from the South. Even as her life continues in the real world, she's sucked into an afterlife where she's met by her childhood sweetheart, Noah. There, Noah tells her that before she dies, she's allowed to view other people's Heavens and use them for inspiration before choosing one of her own. She isn't allowed to view the Heavens of close family members, so instead she visits the Heavens of a priest, her best friend, a homeless child she saw abroad once, and the man who got away but left her with a precious gift.
The Extraordinary Journey of Vivienne Marshall, written by Shannon Kirk, is different from the norm in so many ways. Vivienne must accept that she is dying, but in return she experiences so much freedom and learns so much from the people she visits in their afterlives. The connections between the Heavens are surreal, making the reader wonder just how life after death works, especially since items from the real world end up in the priest's Heaven and the dead seem to have no problem coming and going from one Heaven to another. Not only that, but the book has so many different stories going on at once, in the past, present, and future. Despite that and the large cast of characters, the novel isn't confusing in the least.
I almost want to compare Kirk to a spider because of the way she was able to weave so many storylines together in a perfect web. Each character had a backstory that made them easy to remember and empathize with, but not all of their stories led right back to Vivienne. Some of them, such as with her nurse, were placed out on the edge of the web, only the thinnest of lines tying them back into the main story. This was the most intriguing part of the novel for me, and I groaned in frustration when Vivienne was jerked in and out of consciousness, knowing that I would have to wait to read the continuation of that person's story.
All-in-all, the characters were unique and completely relatable. The only thing that bothered me a bit was Kirk's writing style, which took some time to get used to. To be honest there's nothing wrong with her style, it's just not my personal preference. I don't think other readers would have a problem with it. Most of the errors I found were related to punctuation and verb tense usage.
I struggled a lot in deciding whether to give the book 3 or 4 stars. It took me a while to get into the writing style and start liking Vivienne as a person (especially after witnessing the stupid mistake that caused her death) but once I was over those hurdles, I found that the book truly was interesting and memorable. I would definitely watch it if it were made into a movie. I honestly wish I could give it 3.5 stars because my issues with the novel were resolved halfway through, but in the end I decided to give The Extraordinary Journey of Vivienne Marshall 3 out of 4 stars. The book is PG-13 and can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. I would highly recommend it to readers who enjoy touching tales and surreal stories with many secrets and plot twists.
The Extraordinary Journey of Vivienne Marshall
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