Living alongside eternity

March 26, 2015

We move through life so quickly. Children cram play-dates and lessons between study for entrance exams. Letters gave way to phone calls, then email and disappeared with video-chats and tweets. We create five-year, ten-year and twenty-year goals, power-walking our way through life and all we see is what’s before us. But is that all there is? Aislinn Hunter suggests in The World Before Us that what we sense in this accelerated life is the narrowest universe of all.

 Jane Standen is the fulcrum of this story, a quiet woman with a disquieting past.  Years ago, she took a little girl into the forest and the child disappeared in the woods.  Nothing has brought Jane to terms with this loss and now she’s in a career that uncovers lost detail.  As an archivist, Jane works in a Victorian museum, cataloging the data and detail of an earlier age.   The museum’s closure and an encounter with the child’s father occupy her conscious mind.  It does not fill the conscious of the spirits that follow Jane, ghosts vitalized by her search of the past.

These spirits narrate The World Before Us as they watch the present and Jane.  Disembodied but kind, they study parts of the modern world, aware that their mortal lives’ knowledge is useless.  The artifacts Jane cares for act as beacons for the ghosts, tying them to this current age and linking them to the past, because things have memory as well.

The World Before Us is an ambitious book, containing the stories of different time-spans and varying planes of existence. It is a tale that cannot be hurried but observed like a walk through the forest.  There are mysteries here: the child disappears as does a woman from the previous century.  Nevertheless, the ghosts’ presence hints that no one is ever completely lost.  Like energy, souls transform from one state to another and some stay around the living who remember the lives that have gone.

That may be a disturbing thought to a generation invested in speed but it may be comforting as well.  In our self-conscious view of reality, it is history that gives us perspective.  As members of the race we are part of a whole, not a thread left to blow in the wind.   And with that idea, every flower, every bug, and all the matter of our world becomes part of the grand design.

The World Before Us is due to be released on March 31, 2015.  Many thanks to “Blogging for Books” for allowing me to review this novel!

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