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Ray in Reverse
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0142000094, Paperback)Ray in Reverse is such an exceptionally winning novel from start to finish (or would that be finish to start?) that one can almost forgive its opening chapter. The shtick: Ray's in heaven, and he's joined a group called Last Words, where the members... well, you guessed it, rehash the last things they said on Earth. As it turns out, the dead make for fierce critics, and when they criticize his offering (the incomplete phrase "I wish--"), Ray storms out in a huff.
Not so funny, actually, but what follows is--funny, as well as heartbreaking and all too real. From the second chapter onward, Ray relives the most prominent episodes of his life in reverse order, starting with his fatal cancer and working his way back. Here is Ray losing hair, growing wings, and trying to make his final amends; Ray building his son a tree house and getting drunk there every night; Ray with amnesia; Ray stealing the good-luck penny from his dead grandfather's pocket. The book ends with Ray's last act of true innocence, at age 10: "He was simply doing the right thing, and doing the right thing came to him as naturally as breathing. How could he have known that this was a talent that would be lost over time?"
Ray's is an ordinary life, with an ordinary mixture of good intentions and bad judgment, but it's also one in which extraordinary things happen. In Big Fish, his first novel, Daniel Wallace proved himself a master at mapping precisely the point where the mythic and the quotidian meet. With its gentle humor and pitch-perfect prose, Ray in Reverse is exactly the right kind of fairy tale for our unmagical times. --Mary Park
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:33 -0400)
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