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.
In the first quarter of the book I was held back from investing too much in the story because it seemed as if the metaphysical rug was about to be pulled out from under us. What kept drawing me in, however, was Pierce’s clear prose and fine eye for emotional detail ... Pierce is brilliant at painting an entire life — encompassing passion, missed opportunities, tragedy — in a few pages ... He also isn’t afraid to pose the biggest questions: How do we deal with loss? What are the limits and possibilities of love? What is the nature of time? Jim and Annie, in pursuit of answers, track down Zinker and her 'reunion machine,' which promises to unite the living and the dead. In The Afterlives, Pierce has worked a similar magic, connecting us to fictional characters who seem, somehow, 100 percent real.