The plot of this book was definitely unexpected.
When I read the blurb, I presumed that the story would revolve around the lives of a father-daughter duo living together until they were departed due to a hurdle such as an illness that befell the father or a natural disaster, or anything else of that sort. However, the blurb didn’t give anything away regarding what the actual storyline was and I think that was its strength.
In this novel, the author takes a philosophical concept and entwines it with fictitious characters in a fictitious storyline. Time to Say Goodbye, written by S.D. Robertson utilises the metaphysical idea of ‘life after death’ to create an interesting plot.
We all have so many different preconceptions about what life after death would consist of, whether our soul would survive disembodied or whether it perish too. Whether our body and our soul both would rise to heaven, or whether they would drop down to hell. We even wonder about whether heaven and hell exist or are concepts that we have created to give meaning to the choices we make on earth. There have been numerous articles published on the metaphysics of the ‘I’ and what it means to survive death.
Robertson, however, for the purpose of writing this novel, assumes at the initiation of the novel that the soul does survive the death of the body and it is this assumption that forms the backbone of the storyline.
From the onset, Will, the narrator, is already dead. The fact that he’s standing over his body as the paramedic attempts to resuscitate him in the very first page is enough to present goosebumps on the reader’s arms. Will is frightened and devastated that he has left his daughter orphaned at the mere age of 6. Ella, on the other hand, doesn’t know that Will can see her, her grandparents and her aunt and uncle as they grieve for Will.
The plot unfolds as Will tries – and constantly fails – to get through to Ella with the increasing burden of a time-limit being imposed on his stay as a spirit on earth from ‘above’ which his ‘guide’ Lizzie mediates for him. The question of whether Will manages to get through to Ella and gets his ‘goodbye’ is one that readers will have to see for themselves.
This book was an interesting read. The sensitivity of the relation between that father-daughter duo was one that Robertson presented very well; it was innocent, sweet and endearing even during critical stages in the book. However, I do feel that if one is dealing with a critical topic such as ‘life after death’, the literary standards that one applies in writing about it should also be of a high degree. Throughout the novel there were many concepts – such as communicating with someone as a spirit, living as a spirit, interacting with other spirits and thinking about ‘passing over’ – that appeared amateurish to me.
Firstly, the level of mystery that Robertson wanted to employ in telling his readers about Will’s life as a spirit wasn’t well executed. On many occasions within the novel I felt that Lizzie’s disappearing and re-appearing didn’t have any effect on the plot itself, it was just added to increase a mystery to the reader’s perspective of ‘life as a spirit’ but it didn’t really do anything to stimulate the reader’s imagination.
Secondly, what life on ‘the other side’ was like also under-described and not given as much influence as it would otherwise have in a person’s life.
Thirdly, the way Will manages to communicate with Ella – and later his father – wasn’t described as supernaturally and as spectacularly as it should have been. Will was a spirit after all, surely he must have changed in some respects seeing as he had lost his body completely. Or perhaps this criticism comes from my sceptical nature as a philosophy student who cannot blindly accept that this form of life after death can be an actuality.
Lastly, the fact that at a point Will’s guide told him that he can go back in time and make his decision again went against every single part of my rationality. Will’s actions had already affected the physical world in ways they shouldn’t have and that was something that should have been stopped to begin with. Secondly, him going back in time would mean the whole world going back in time. Lives rewinding. Things that had already happened not happening. People that died coming alive again. How would that work though? Suppose, during that period many people died and had chosen to ‘pass over’ straight away, would that mean that they would come back to earth and live the remainder of days? Would they even die again?
As you guys may have noticed, I had many complaints with this novel and the reason being is because I feel that when it comes to complex philosophical concepts that form part of the worldviews of readers, one should deal with them with utmost sensitivity and care and ensure that all loose ends are fixed. I felt that there were many issues with the way Robertson entwined this concept without thinking about too much and that was where the issue came in.
The writing was good, entertaining. However, the plot could have been improved.
Nevertheless, for those of you who aren’t as passionate (or crazy) as I am when it comes to speaking of the afterlife in a book, then I would recommend this book. But I would say that you should leave any preconceptions you have regarding the afterlife, as well any scepticism that you could potentially have while reading this book, only then will you truly be able to enjoy reading it.
Until next week,