On The Other Side – Carrie Hope Fletcher

“Your soul is too heavy to pass through the door,
leave the weight of the world in the world from before.
Once it is lighter your key shall then turn,
and you will be able to have what you yearn.”

9780751563146

Blurb: “Evie Snow is eighty-two when she quietly passes away in her sleep, surrounded by her children and grandchildren. It’s the way most people wish to leave the world but when Evie reaches the door of her own private heaven, she finds that she’s become her twenty-seven-year old self and the door won’t open. Evie’s soul must be light enough to pass through so she needs to get rid of whatever is making her soul heavy. For Evie, this means unburdening herself of the three secrets that have weighed her down for over fifty years, so she must find a way to reveal them before it’s too late.”

On The Other Side is the first fiction novel from Carrie Hope Fletcher and earned her the number one spot on the Sunday Times’ Fiction Hardback Bestseller list.

The story follows Evie who finds herself in the body of her twenty-seven year old self in the apartment building she lived in during her time. She goes to her old apartment door and finds that she can’t open the door. With the help of her deceased building doorman Dr Lieffe, she learns that if you lived a good life, when you die to go to your favourite place – your own personal heaven- which to Evie is this building. Her soul is weighed down by three secrets she’s accumulated over her life and needs to unburden herself in order to fully pass on.

Carrie was in an interesting position with this book as no one knows what happens after you die, therefore no reader can argue how “realistic” the interpretation of the afterlife is. Which leaves a lot to play around with.

I really liked the characters. Each and every single one of them that I crossed paths with over the course of this book stayed with me until the last page. They were all so well written and felt like real people you might come across in life if you’re lucky enough. There’s some diversity in terms of sexuality (during a Q&A Carrie mentioned that society is so diverse and there’s nothing wrong with introducing and normalising these differences through her work) but I’m becoming exasperated at bisexual representation in literature. This is no entire fault of Carrie because I’ve reached a point where I’ll take what I can get, but the bisexual characters in literature always seem to be men. I’m yet to find an abundance of bisexual female characters scattered across the pages of books.

I liked the overall plot though some parts were questionable and after a few times of re-reading I’m still not fully sure what and how things happened in certain places.

My main issue with this book was the plot order. Evie’s unfinished business requires her to go back to three different people from her life and tell them a secret and when she goes back into the living world to do this she will say “I need to go and see…” then it was another 30% of the ebook before you actually got to see what took place with that person. This is because there’s a lot of flitting from past to present in order to get a better understanding of who Evie was to flesh her out and the very obvious and fundamental love story. I found all of it really good in terms of storytelling and writing but it just all felt out of order; like it had been thrown together in the early stages and then not fiddled around with. There was no clear indication of whether you were in the past or present which became confusing. (I found out through a Q&A that the chapters with the branch symbol referred to the past and chapters with the door symbol referred to the present but it’s no good learning that AFTER finishing the book when it’s not clear while reading) I wanted to take the book apart and reorder it to see if it would have worked better the way I pictured it in my mind.

If it wasn’t for the wonderful characters and engaging plot points, I would have given up on this book completely. Which is a shame because I expected more from someone as creative as Carrie.

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