Charlie Asher, a neurotic and anxious hypochondriac who hates change, confronts the challenges of being a widower and a single parent when his wife dies of a freak medical condition on the day his new daughter, Sophie, is born.
What you seek, you shall never find. For when the Gods made man, They kept immortality for themselves. Fill your belly. Day and night make merry, Let Days be full of joy, Love the child that holds your hand. Let your wife delight in your embrace, For these alone are the concerns of man. —The Epic of Gilgamesh
This book is dedicated to Patricia Moss, who was as generous in sharing her death as she was in sharing her life.
To hospice workers and volunteers all over the world.
Charlie Asher walked the earth like an ant walks on the surface of water, as if the slightest misstep might send him plummeting through the surface to be sucked to the depths below.
Thing settled in the City of Two Bridges, and all the dark gods that had been rising to erupt out over the world remembered their place and returned to their domains deep in the Underworld. (Epilogue)
'I don't even want to make her eat her green beans for fear she'll KITTY me.' 'I'm sure you have some kind of immunity.' 'The Great Big Book says that we're not immune to death ourselves. I'd say the next time a kitten comes on the Discovery Channel my sister could be picking out caskets.'
The story centers on Charlie Asher, a "beta-male" (as opposed to "alpha-male") who leads a satisfying life as the owner and proprietor of a second-hand store in San Francisco. At the moment when his wife Rachel unexpectedly dies in the hospital shortly after the birth of their first child (Sophie), Charlie becomes involved in a new sideline of retrieving the souls of the dying, so as to protect them from the forces of the underworld. He only gradually realizes the ramifications of this business as various clues and complications unfold. Ultimately Charlie resolves to confront directly the forces of darkness.