Publisher: William Morrow, HarperCollins
Where to buy: Barnes and Noble.
Retail Price: $23.95
Charlie Asher is a quiet, unassuming, 35-year-old, white, American worrywart. He’s about to have the best and worst day of his life. He is married to the love of his life who has recently made him a father. Even more recently, unfortunately, she has also made him a widower. Since the death of his wife, his life changed in ways that no one would ever think to imagine. It all starts when he finds his wife (apparently sleeping) in her hospital room with a tall black man in a green suit lurking over her body. When Charlie asks the man what he is doing there, the man simply replies, “You can see me?”
Charlie is baffled by this response, but quickly moves to the unusual stillness of his wife. Their newborn baby in is crying in her rigid arms. Charlie calls in the nurse, turns to look back at the man. The man, like Charlie’s wife’s life, has vanished as quickly as he came.
This is only the first of many strange occurrences that Charlie is about to encounter. Two weeks later, Charlie witnesses a complete stranger get run over by a bus. Seconds before, Charlie had seen the man at an ATM machine and noticed something very peculiar; the man’s umbrella is glowing bright red. As if experiences of two deaths are not insane enough, Charlie realizes one more oddity: Despite never meeting the man before, Charlie automatically knows the man’s full name: William Creek.
Throughout the remainder of the novel, Charlie learns, very slowly, that he has been drafted into a very morbid office. He is now a Death Merchant. He is responsible for collecting red-glowing soul vessels (inanimate objects that bear the souls of the recently deceased) and redistributing them to the public. Luckily, Charlie owns a second-hand thrift store. He also learns that he has been drafted into another unwanted area: the dating scene.
As weird as becoming a Death Merchant is, even stranger things start happening. Things that even other Death Merchants have not witnessed before. Dark voices loom in the sewers, and they seem to be growing louder. A mysterious blue-eyed woman starts hording soul vessels. It appears that something big and ominous is around the corner.
With all this talk of death, it’s hard to believe that this book will keep you in a fit of laughter. Christopher Moore handles the idea of death admirably, adding the genuine humor that comes to us in times of need. The book presents a plethora of unique characters, ranging from a 7-foot-black male named Minty Fresh to Charlie’s androgynous lesbian sister. The characters and the plot are equally far-fetched, but neither is forced nor artificial.
This book, however, is not without a few flaws. Only two really caught my eye. The first was the cover. I fear saying this may give away too much but, well, the cover gives away too much. The second flaw is that the climax of the book takes place within the last fifty pages. There is a big plot lull between Charlie’s coming-of-age-story-as- a-Death-Merchant and the book’s final discovery. But the lull is not with out its entertaining qualities.
This book works on many levels for many readers. Whether you are single, dealing with the death of a loved one, or you just want a good laugh, this book can help fill that void. It will give you many big laughs, a few small tears. Occasionally, it will even give you dating advice.