After suffering cardiac arrest and a five-minute clinical death, 33-year-old commercial loan officer Jim Byrd is outfitted with an experimental defibrillator called a HeartNet. Soon after, Jim and his new wife, Annie, find themselves tangling with holograms, psychics, and messages from the beyond.
...enchanting ... Like his previous book, the short story collection Hall of Small Mammals, it's richly imaginative, quirky but not twee, and the work of an author who's determined to find the surreal behind the ordinary ... There's a lot going on in The Afterlives, but that's not a bad thing — Pierce's pacing is excellent, and the reader never feels overwhelmed by the increasingly bizarre events in the novel ... Pierce also has a gift for memorable and realistic characters ... The Afterlives is an admirably straight-faced novel, and Pierce writes as if he's allergic to the snide, the ironic and the pseudo-intellectual. It's a deeply generous, compassionate book that asks its readers to open their hearts and treat one another with understanding, even as the world grows more complicated, and more unknowable, every day.
...a pleasant case of a ghost story that gets it both ways — it delivers a satisfying rendering of what that supernatural world might be like, while preserving the sense of mystery that draws us to such yarns in the first place ... Pierce, like every ghost-story writer, knows we crave an unreality to match the humdrum real world we’re stuck in. Unlike many, though, he grasps that we chase that tension not to cross into some 'other side' but to feel steadier on this one.
Pierce uses humor to create an almost paradoxical sensation that affectingly pulses throughout The Afterlives. Jim’s story is funny because it’s so realistic, but it’s also so absurd that it’s impossible ... While the novel remains comedic, a deep, philosophical sentiment also makes itself known in the novel’s second half. Pierce astutely asserts that reckoning with death and the afterlife shouldn’t be avoided because these two things are as essential to the human experience as the very act of living is.