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Saturday, March 06, 2010

Heaven A Nice, Affirming Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

After being blown away by Angela Johnson's The First Part Last, I was thrilled to find out about its sequel/prequel, Heaven. Every time I close an enjoyable book, I feel like I'm leaving friends behind. It's always nice when I can step back into their lives and see how they've fared since last we met. Naturally, then, I wanted to see how Bobby and Feather have grown and changed. Turns out, they haven't. Well, they've aged a teensy bit, but that's about all. Both make appearances in Heaven, but the book isn't actually about them at all.

The book concerns 14-year-old Marley, a girl who's content with her life in Heaven, Ohio. It's not the most exciting existence in the world, but her parents are kind, her older brother's cool and her best friend, Shoogie, always makes her laugh. Letters from her globe-trotting Uncle Jack allow her a peek at the outside world. It's enough for Marley.

Then, she receives startling news, information that leads her to question everything she's ever known about her life, her family and herself. How can the people she loves and trusts have misled her? Who are her parents, really? If she doesn't know them, how in the world can she ever know herself?

While Heaven doesn't equal or even really resemble The First Part Last, it's still a touching little book. It raises questions of what it means to be a family, if there's any such thing as a perfect one, and how we all fit together in this great big human race. The book didn't stir me like The First Part Last did, but Heaven's definitely a nice, affirming read.

(Readalikes: Hm, can't think of any.)

Grade: B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for some mature themes

To the FTC, with love: Another library fine find


  1. Did you expect or think that Heaven should have mirrored First Part in some way?

    I just finished the final book in the trilogy and I loved, Sweet, Hereafter. For me, the stories were loosely interrelated but meant to examine different characters stories much in the way I think E.R. Frank connected characters in Life Is Funny.

    Hope you read the last book.

    Thanks for the review.

  2. It's like this: THE FIRST PART LAST really blew me away with the story, the beauty of the language, everything. So, I think I expected something similar from HEAVEN. I was surprised to find that HEAVEN has a completely different tone. It's still a nice story, just not as impactful to me as THE FIRST PART LAST. I think I probably would have liked HEAVEN better if I hadn't read THE FIRST PART LAST first. You know what I mean?

    How did I not know there was another book in the series? I'm going to request it from my library right now ...


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