Thursday, December 01, 2016

The Extraordinary Journey of Vivienne Marshall

by Shannon Kirk

I loved this book.  As with most books I loved reading, I am having a difficult time finding the right words and thoughts to describe The Extraordinary Journey of Vivienne Marshall.

The story is mostly told from Vivienne's point of view as she lies dying in a hospital bed.  Although she is in immense pain and is, almost completely, covered in casts she is well cared for by a male nurse who reads another woman's journal to her and helps her cope with her pain in humorous ways.  Marty is a delightful character with story of his own that is revealed too quickly.  One of my only complaints is that I wish his story would have taken more time to reveal itself.

So here we are in the hospital shifting from Vivienne's telling of a childhood friendship that blossoms into true love with Noah, to the woman's journal - this woman had been in a year-long coma but had just recently died under Marty's care, Marty's story, Vivienne's retelling of moments in her life with important people, her visits to these people's "heavens" in an attempt to choose what she wants her heaven to be like.  Her escort to these different heavens is her boyhood sweetheart, Noah.

Occasionally, there are notes dated and written by Vivienne's son, Ivan, who mentions often about rereading a favorite childhood book every year on his mother's birthday.  Ivan's birth father, Jack, is a remarkable man who is married to another woman.  He felt great remorse for being unfaithful to his wife.  Vivienne loves him immensely because of his goodness and the wonderful father he is to Ivan.

As I read back over this review it sounds like there is a lot going on.  And there is.  Even more than I've written about. I didn't even mention Vivienne's mother and her best friend, who is Noah's mother.  However, all these stories are easy to keep track of and each has a richness that adds to the overall elegance of this novel.

The Extraordinary Journey of Vivienne Marshall has depth of meaning and beauty.  I feel like I need to reread it, now that I know the story, and focus of the symbolism and different layers of meaning.  It was such a captivating story and so easy to read that I only paused occasionally to appreciate the beauty of the words.  I think it is a lovely, endearing, heartbreaking, and hopeful story of love, life, death, heaven, hell, caring, and perspective.

I strongly recommend this book and would love to hear others' thoughts about their experience with this story.  

**I received a complimentary copy of this book from Reputation Books and  Net Galley.  This review reflects my honest opinions. No compensation was received.**

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