In Passage, a psychologist teams up with a neurologist who manufactures near-death experiences, and both learn more about death than they bargained for. It’s the second Willis book I’ve reviewed, and they’re remarkably consistent in both strengths and flaws. Strengths: Willis writes cranky, driven female scholars, which I like, and fierce, precocious, blunt little girls, which I love. She combines humor and suspense well, crafting science fantasy stories with real, felt stakes.
Flaws: Get Willis an editor! This book is at least a third too long. Why pad it with literally dozens of fruitless car trips and missed connections due to: full voicemails, turned-off pagers, comas, folks who just left, and perhaps worst, repeatedly ALMOST REALIZING SOMETHING — BUT NOT QUITE!? Willis also adores irrelevant details. Protagonists routinely get trapped in conversations that are described as unbearably boring – which we read in full. One character, before an important medical procedure, gasps “Wait!” What’s wrong?!? Her scarf is uncomfortable. Is this information critical? Nope. She adjusts it. They move on.
Caricaturish repetition aside, the story’s skeleton is great. It’s got cool plot twists, and addresses authentic concerns like fear of death, chronic illness, the unreliability of memory and perception, and dream significance. If you read fast and don’t nitpick, this is a fun book.
The 214 in 2014 series chronicles every book I read in 2014. Each review contains exactly 214 words, because 2014 words is too long and 2014 characters is too dang short. And yes, this review is backlogged from 2014.
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