Life After Death by Carol Muske-Dukes

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"Why don't you just die?" Boyd Schaeffer asks her husband, Russell, one night during a fight.

The next day, he does just that. Russell was rich, sensitive, charming, but always unreliable and it is not clear to Boyd what emotional legacy his untimely death has bequeathed her.

Boyd already has a complicated relationship to death. A former obstetrician, she fled both her profession and New York City when one of her patients died. Back then, she'd escaped with Russell to settle in Minnesota. Now, she embarks (along with her small daughter) on a journey into the underworld—ajourney of grief, self-reproach, and self-discovery so profound and surprising that her individual life in its quiet midwestern setting takes on the universal lineaments of myth. Boyd's companions on this journey into the shadow world between existence and nonexistence include a lonely undertaker; an unconventional embalmer, who demonstrates his trade for her; and her own daughter, who offers a child's instinctive wisdom about life's mysteries. With their help and her own persistence and courage, Boyd begins to understand that endings are often also beginnings, that the Book of Life and Death is constantly being rewritten before our eyes.


About Carol Muske-Dukes

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Carol Muske-Dukes is the founder and director of the graduate program in literature and creative writing at the University of Southern California. Her last collection of poetry, An Octave Above Thunder, was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and she has been the recipient of many awards, among them a Guggenheim fellowship. She has written three novels, and Married to the Icepick Killer, a collection of essays on Hollywood and poetry published in 2002, is her most recent book. She writes a regular column for the Los Angeles Times Book Review called “Poets’ Corner” and reviews for The New York Times. Muske-Dukes lives in Los Angeles with her daughter.
Published July 17, 2001 by Random House. 304 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Religion & Spirituality, War. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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As Boyd, troubled by Russell’s seemingly continued presence (she keeps finding notes he wrote for her) starts practicing medicine again and tries to help daughter Freddy accept Russell’s death, she discovers the real cause behind it.

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Austin Chronicle

Among its considerations are birth, abortion, the death of babies, the way children understand death, how grief unfolds in our lives over the short and long term, the possibility that a spirit persists after death (never fully dismissed) and most thoroughly, mortuary and funereal practices.

Jun 22 2001 | Read Full Review of Life After Death

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