Somebody is literally pounding at my chest, but I’m numb. At least I think I am, because I can only see. Shit, the scene is messier than I imagined. The car is still smoking and no-one is putting it out, all their attention is focused on me. Do they want me to make it? I don’t. People’s voices are muffled and my eyes avert to the spider-webbed windscreen and the large tree branch which penetrates through my car. Smoke plumes billow from the bonnet. Did they get me out? Did they drag me from the driver’s seat before the vehicle burst into flames? If they did, I could be paralysed and wheelchair bound. Perhaps that’s why I’m numb? Oh God, my face is unrecognisable. Don’t bring me back, please. Stop! Where am I? I stare at my feet, which are firmly planted on the tarmac pavement and glance over my shoulder.
My body is still there, but – but I’m over here. I must have succeeded.
Jude Reed wanted to die when he purposefully crashed his car. The paramedics attempt to save his life, but his spirit stops them by pushing the oxygen mask away from his face. He whispers into the ear of his unconscious self: “Jude you did this for a reason. You can die now, your heart rate and breathing is being artificially stimulated by machinery and the people who are trying to save you. You don’t want to make it”. The remainder of the book follows Jude and Tiffany, both of whom are stuck in a limbo between life and death. But why were they placed together in this way? Tiffany has the ability to revisit any memory she wants to, and it is through this form of flashback that we are able to view Jude’s life, not just up to the day he died, but back to when he was a child in 1993. I thought this use of narrative worked really well, as it allows the reader to learn more about Jude from various important people in his life. What made it even more interesting is that the characters had different opinions on Jude; his dad thinks he is pathetic, wimpy and immature, whereas his mum says he was “a good child. He was conscientious and hard working, always trying to please”. Jude watches back his own life and makes a journey of self exploration and discovery to improve his way of thinking and ease his depression. Bowns also hits on some really sensitive issues in this three-hundred-page novel, including homophobia, abusive relationships and poverty.
I think that Jude is rather unlikeable as a character. There were places I wanted to physically shake him and tell him to stop moaning about his life. He often complains about the relationship he has with his boyfriend Joe, always wants attention from his mum, but will never ask for it, and he doesn’t tell people about his depression, but instead shuts himself away from the world. Tiffany is utilised to make Jude understand and reevaluate what is really important in life, such as family and friends. The novel really demonstrates how people can cross paths in life and yet never realise it. Tiffany and Jude met three times while they were alive, but never said more than a few words to each other. Having been forced together after their deaths, they help each other to discover who they are and what they want.
I literally could not put this book down and have read it in two days. Apart from the occasional spelling and grammar error, and not liking Jude, I cannot fault the overall tone, writing and format of this novel. The plot was surprising, taking all kinds of turns and leaps through time, but the ending really was unexpected and generally incredible.
Overall rating – 4/5
This ebook is available for just £1 on Amazon. If you download the Amazon Kindle app, the novel can be read on smartphones and tablets as well.
For those of you who are interested in learning more about the author of ‘The Defeatist’, Sophie Bowns, I’ll be doing a Question and Answer blog post with her within the next few days or so, so look out for it!
Next review: To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf