Book Reviews

Review: Descriptions of Heaven by Randal Eldon Greene


Today I have a new release to share with you!  I was kindly sent an ARC of this book for a review.  This is an interesting book and I will be holding an interview with the author next week where there will be a competition to win a physical copy of this book!  Stay tuned next Tuesday for that!  In the meantime here is my review:

When a monster is found in the New Bedford Lake it gives a brief reprieve from the fact that Robert’s wife Natalia is dying.  She has cancer, there is no cure and Robert contemplates how to explain it to their son Jesse while also contemplating life and death itself.

‘Descriptions of Heaven’ is an interesting but difficult book to read.  Apart from the language used in the book its subject matter is one that could provoke deep thoughts and emotions in those reading it.  The story is told from Robert’s point of view and written in the first person perspective.  As weeks and months go by the family come to terms with the inevitable death of Natalia and thoughts of what lays beyond.

At the start of this novella is a brief side story about the discovery of a monster in the New Bedford Lake which makes for a fun and interesting beginning but the main story is quite a simple one of what a family goes through when someone has incurable cancer.  The main character, Robert, is a linguistics professor and because this book is told in the first person, most of the text is written with a language which may turn off a lot of readers.  There are a lot of eloquent words used and although I don’t mind such language (it’s often found in Classics) I did feel as if some of this was over the top and it made getting into reading this difficult.

Despite the flowery prose and the seemingly mundane everyday things the family go through there are a lot of deep passages and thoughts which I enjoyed.  Simple situations were given deeper meaning when contemplating life and death and the way some things were described such as creaky stairs were done in such a way that it really evoked vivid images in my mind and made me think about things in a new way.  For all the eloquent words used though, I felt that some of the conversation tags were lazy.  ‘He said’ and ‘she said’ were used too often in general, and considering Robert’s broad use of the English language I would have liked some better indications of who spoke and when.

There is nothing offensive in this book but it does deal with incurable cancer and inevitable death.  The ending of the book is a satisfying one but there are no surprises in this story.  The book ponders on life and death a lot and doesn’t have a lot of action scenes or anything like that.  While it was hard for me to get into reading this, once  I did, I enjoyed it.  What’s surprised me is how such a short novella has left lasting thoughts.  Greene’s use of words has evoked such vivid images and thoughts that I find I’m contemplating life and death myself.  An interesting and thought-provoking read.

Rating: 3.5/5

Review published on Goodreads, click here

Author’s website:

Book Blurb:

A linguist, a lake monster, and the looming shadow of death—news of an unknown creature in the New Bedford Lake coincides with news that Natalia’s cancer has returned.

On the shores of the lake in a strange house with many secret doors, Robert and his family must face the fact that Natalia is dying, and there is no hope this time. But they continue on; their son plays by the lakeside, Natalia paints, Robert writes, and all the while the air is thick with dust from a worldwide drought that threatens to come down and coat their little corner of green.

A lament for what is already lost and what is yet to be lost, Descriptions of Heaven leaves only one question to be asked: What’s next?

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