Synopses & Reviews
"What happens when we die? Does the light just go out and that's that - the million-year nap? Or will some part of my personality, my me-ness persist? What will that feel like? What will I do all day? Is there a place to plug in my laptop?"
In an attempt to find out, Mary Roach brings her tireless curiosity to bear on an array of contemporary and historical soul-searchers: scientists, schemers, engineers, mediums, all trying to prove (or disprove) that life goes on after we die. She begins the journey in rural India with a reincarnation researcher and ends up in a University of Virginia operating room where cardiologists have installed equipment near the ceiling to study out-of-body near-death experiences. Along the way, she enrolls in an English medium school, gets electromagnetically haunted at a university in Ontario, and visits a Duke University professor with a plan to weigh the consciousness of a leech. Her historical wanderings unearth soul-seeking philosophers who rummaged through cadavers and calves' heads, a North Carolina lawsuit that established legal precedence for ghosts, and the last surviving sample of "ectoplasm" in a Cambridge University archive.
"The deadpan humor and subtle wit that journalist Roach (Stiff) is known for is overshadowed by Quigley's exaggerated delivery in this disappointing audio adaptation. Like Roach's previous book, this exploration of the afterlife is loaded with unusual historical facts, oddball encounters and humorous observations. Unfortunately, Quigley performs rather than reads the material, and her snarky, knowing tone is as out of sync with Roach's earnest investigation as are her atrocious character voices. For reincarnation researcher Dr. Rawat, she adopts a heavily accented voice as subtle as The Simpsons' Hindu grocer, Apu. Professor Gerry Naham is lent a nasally, squeaky voice, apparently to convey his nerdiness (he aims to build a system that can detect the departure of a dying person's soul using electromagnetic energy). Then there's sheep rancher Lewis Hollander, whom Quigley gives the mellow voice of a stoned hippie despite Roach's description of him as 'a kindly, soft-spoken guy'; one almost expects Hollander to preface his description of his homegrown soul-weighing experiment with 'dude.' Quigley transforms these intriguing, eccentric people into caricatures and makes this a grating listen. Simultaneous release with the Norton hardcover (Reviews, Aug. 22). (Oct.) Read additional Web-exclusive audio reviews at ." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)