Read Next Life Might Be Kinder by Howard Norman Online


“After my wife, Elizabeth Church, was murdered by the bellman Alfonse Padgett in the Essex Hotel, she did not leave me.”Sam Lattimore meets Elizabeth Church in 1970s Halifax, in an art gallery. The sparks are immediate, leading quickly to a marriage that is dear, erotically charged, and brief.  In Howard Norman’s spellbinding and moving novel, the gleam of the marriage and“After my wife, Elizabeth Church, was murdered by the bellman Alfonse Padgett in the Essex Hotel, she did not leave me.”Sam Lattimore meets Elizabeth Church in 1970s Halifax, in an art gallery. The sparks are immediate, leading quickly to a marriage that is dear, erotically charged, and brief.  In Howard Norman’s spellbinding and moving novel, the gleam of the marriage and the circumstances of Elizabeth’s murder are revealed in heart-stopping increments. Sam’s life afterward is complicated. For one thing, in a moment of desperate confusion, he sells his life story to a Norwegian filmmaker named Istvakson, known for the stylized violence of his films, whose artistic drive sets in motion an increasingly intense cat-and-mouse game between the two men. For another, Sam has begun “seeing” Elizabeth—not only seeing but holding conversations with her, almost every evening, and watching her line up books on a small beach. What at first seems simply hallucination born of terrible grief reveals itself, evening by evening, as something else entirely.Next Life Might Be Kinder is a story of murder, desperate faith, the afterlife, and of love as absolute redemption—from one of our most compelling storytellers at the height of his talents....

Title : Next Life Might Be Kinder
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780547712123
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 255 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Next Life Might Be Kinder Reviews

  • Rebecca Foster
    2019-04-22 17:12

    I admire books that seem to give everything away in the first line yet keep you gripped all the way through to the last page. “After my wife, Elizabeth Church, was murdered by the bellman Alfonse Padgett in the Essex Hotel, she did not leave me.” Norman’s stunning opening line reveals the crime and the murderer, but also suggests, rather curiously, an afterlife to this short-lived marriage in early 1970s Nova Scotia. The setup for this novel is very much like The Beginner’s Goodbye by Anne Tyler, but I liked this one so much more.Novelist Sam Lattimore met Elizabeth, a twenty-nine-year-old PhD student from Hay-on-Wye, Wales, at a photography exhibit in Halifax. For the less than one year of their marriage, they lived in a long-term suite at the Essex Hotel. (The second novel in a row I read that’s set in a hotel, though the other, Bellweather Rhapsody – even with the mystery/ghost theme – could hardly be more different!) Sam delayed his novel by writing radio adaptations; Elizabeth made progress on her dissertation on The Victorian Chaise Longue by Marghanita Laski (which is a real book! I had to check after I finished reading); and together they took dance lessons, all along fending off the unwanted attentions of that creepy bellhop.The novel tracks Sam and Elizabeth’s relationship, but also the peculiar course of Sam’s new life without her. Now living in an isolated beachfront cottage and battling writer’s block (he’s working on his second novel, by the terrific title of Think Gently on Libraries), Sam delves into his loss with his psychiatrist, Dr. Nissensen, but desperately avoids sharing it with the Norwegian filmmaker who bought the rights to his story and is turning it into a movie named Next Life Might Be Kinder. At the time, Sam needed the $125,000, but now he wishes he’d never agreed. “‘What “based on a true story” means, Istvakson [the director] said, ‘is my film will tell what really happened, only better.” Sam begs to differ. Although he detests the word “closure” – “When you lose someone you love, the memory of them maintains a tenacious adhesiveness to the heart,” he insists, quoting Chekhov – still he needs some way of living without Elizabeth.Except, she’s not quite gone. She keeps turning up in his dreams – and in what seems like real life, during Sam’s early morning bouts of insomnia on the beach. Elizabeth lays out her books on the sand and they talk about their marriage and about the past; it even seems that she will reveal exactly what happened between her and Padgett during that final meeting in the hotel elevator.I loved: Norman’s use of Hay-on-Wye as a setting; the recurrence of missing library books, the lindy hop and a Victorian chaise-longue; and the litany of bird names Sam tries to learn for his new birdwatching hobby. There’s also some great secondary characters (the film production assistant and the local librarian), and I enjoyed the characters’ musings on “situational ethics” – which mostly plays out through Sam’s neighbor getting an amazing estate sale bargain on an antique table.I didn’t quite love: how thin and stereotypically villainous a character Padgett is; the obnoxious dance instructor who shouts “Yowza! Yowza! Yowza!”; the frequent references to Laski and to Brian Moore, Sam’s favorite author (I kept thinking there must be literary in-jokes I wasn’t quite getting); and the fact that Norman ties up the crime rather too neatly. I thought it should have been left open-ended and given a bit more psychological depth.However, I feel chided for making these criticisms when I remember another Chekhov quote that appears in the novel, this time in Elizabeth’s dissertation notebook:“The only question is, does the work as a whole allow one to taste the bitterness and sweetness of life. If the answer is a resounding yes, then to point out examples of so-called contrivance strikes me as prosecutorial, carping and undignified.”(That told me!) I think there’s no question that Norman is applying this quote, in a tongue-in-cheek way, to his own novel. And I’d agree that he has mastered the bittersweet tone: I laughed out loud during many of Sam’s chats with Dr. Nissensen, but still found the demise of his young marriage almost unbearably sad.I’d long been intrigued by Howard Norman’s books – having heard great things about The Bird Artist and The Museum Guard – but never managed to get hold of one of his novels before this one came up on NetGalley. You don’t often come across his work in libraries or secondhand shops.It’s tricky to pinpoint quite who or what his writing reminds me of, but I thought I spotted shades of John Irving, Wayne Johnston, Ruth Ozeki (A Tale for the Time Being), and maybe even Siri Hustvedt (The Blazing World) here. I will certainly seek out more of Norman’s books.

  • Larry H
    2019-04-21 19:19

    Full disclosure: I received an advance readers copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review."After my wife, Elizabeth Church, was murdered by the bellman Alfonse Padgett in the Essex Hotel, she did not leave me."Sam Lattimore has been rocked by the death of his beloved wife, Elizabeth. Their marriage was brief but passionate, emotionally and sexually charged, and occasionally tempestuous, but Sam is unprepared for the depth of his grief. A novelist before their marriage, he is unable to move forward with his writing, and seems stuck in a state of emotional limbo. He finds himself blacking out from time to time, and has been seeing a therapist weekly, although their encounters are usually punctuated by bursts of anger.In a period of intense crisis just after Elizabeth's death, Sam sold the rights to their story to an ambitious film director, who becomes obsessed with finding verisimilitude in bringing Elizabeth's life and death to film. As the director pursues Sam constantly to discuss his vision, and seek answers to his questions, Sam becomes more obsessed with avoiding the director and refusing to respond to his requests, even as he sends his assistant, an attractive Norwegian woman who may or may not be attracted to Sam, to do his bidding. Sam's refusals become increasingly angry, although he can't tear himself away from reading news about the film, or visiting the set."I miss Elizabeth sometimes to the point that all the oxygen in the world wouldn't be enough to let me breathe. I just stand there choking."After Sam moves from the hotel where the couple was living at the time of Elizabeth's death to a small rural cottage, he begins "seeing" his wife each night, on a beach near his home. Every night, Elizabeth can be seen lining up 11 books on the beach, and she and Sam speak, sometimes sharing simple words of love, and sometimes Elizabeth talks more in depth with Sam—about the dissertation she was working on at the time of her murder, the dance lessons they were taking, and one night, she promises to tell Sam the story of what happened the day she was murdered.As Sam's grief intensifies, his therapist and his friends become more concerned about his grip on reality and his penchant to commit violence. Sam refuses to believe that his visions of Elizabeth aren't real, and would like nothing more than to be suspended in time so he never has to lose his wife. But in what direction will his life move, and will he be able to deal with his grief?Howard Norman's Next Life Might Be Kinder is a moving story about the power of love and the effects grief can have on a person. Norman was tremendously skilled in creating Sam's character, imbuing him with flaws so you're not sure whether to pity him completely or wonder if he really has lost his grip on reality. I also found Elizabeth's character really fascinating—you understand the attraction between these two people but wonder if their mercurial nature might have led to the demise of their relationship if she had lived.This was a tremendously well-written book. You really felt the strength of Sam's love for Elizabeth and his grief and anger about her death. It's a difficult book to read because of its subject matter, but it is a very powerful one that really resonates.

  • Melissa
    2019-04-20 12:38

    This book is quite delicious. Sam & Elizabeth's marriage & witty hotel life are charming & exceedingly devourable. I got a bit tired of Sam's therapy chapters because he was so hostile to poor Dr. Nissensen, but I couldn't get enough of the tragic newlyweds, and knowing what was going to happen to Elizabeth made me genuinely sad. Why didn't they just fire the bellman?

  • Stacey Peters
    2019-04-15 13:18

    This morning, hours before I finished Howard Norman’s Next Life Might Be Kinder, I read in a news story that Physicists at the University of Rochester have created a silicon nanocavity that allows light to be trapped longer than in any other similar sized optical cavities. A mind is such a nanocavity of course. Light that ceaselessly irradiates the universe curls up on itself in the mind. Loving memory resides in these nanocavities whose sole purpose is this. But a book is the creation of a mind, and few novelists capture light in a letter. Howard Norman has.The light in this case is the short, charmed marriage of Sam Lattimore and Elizabeth Church, which ends in her murder. The novel, narrated by Sam, takes place during the year following her death, with frequent flashbacks to their courtship and marriage. The chapters are short, some no longer than a page and half. Humor suffuses even the darkest contours of the story, which only makes it more heartbreaking when the inevitable turns arrive.Sam is a writer in his mid-thirties, and Elizabeth, Lizzie, is a graduate student in her late twenties, writing her doctoral thesis on a minor 20th century English writer whom she adores. They meet at an art gallery in 1971. She is killed a little over a year later. While it is a book of memory and grief most of it takes place in the bubble of erotic love the couple inhabit. They drink espresso, they go to dance classes, they eat bouillabaisse, they plan for their future. Lizzie is a delight, sexy, intelligent, funny. If Sam is more melancholic, more cynical, he is also disarmed by her. His barbs before her death fall this side of mean.After the murder Sam moves to a cottage by a cove and sees a therapist, Dr. Nissensen, with whom he spars. He has befriended a couple living next door, Cynthia and Philip, and is locked in a disturbing, antagonistic struggle with an obsessive Norwegian filmmaker to whom he has sold the rights of his and Elizabeth’s story. He needs the money badly but wants no contact with director, an obnoxious narcissist. His relationship with the doctor is more fraught, as in his grief Sam sees Elizabeth each night on the beach by his house, laying out eleven books. Sam believes he is seeing her in a bardo state and Dr. Nissensen is trying to get him to accept her death. Sam has no intention of letting go.The effect of the novel, with its cutting back and forth between past and present, between Sam’s struggle to stay sane and survive a devastating grief, and the glowing happiness that is his for such a short amount of time, is hard to describe. Grief and pain are always easier to convey than joy and yet the joyous moments are as bright, and as real, as the dark. The story seems effortless, as if Howard Norman just spun it out of things at hand, light and shadow, whispered jokes, memories of meals. It is a mark of the highest craft that it should seem so. What unfolds is a story of the charity of neighbors, of a unique and unquiet love, and of the shocking stupidity and arbitrariness of existence. The narrative is alive to the absurdity of murder and grief and of death. The cosmic joke is delivered with a wince and a smile and the wallop is allowed to accumulate slowly in the reader’s mind, before hitting the heart like a bullet.– JON FRANKEL is a poet and novelist based in Ithaca NY. His latest novel, Gaha: Babes of the Abyss, will be published this summer by Whiskey Tit.This review originally published on The Dooryard.

  • Roger Brunyate
    2019-03-25 11:22

    Touching… but don't look too closelyI have read two Howard Norman novels before this, and given them each three stars, attracted to his world yet frustrated in equal measure. Yet the attraction to that world—the spiritual one of sadness and loss, and the physical setting in Nova Scotia—seems to hold the upper hand, for here I am again. And rather more enthusiastic this time around, for his latest novel is a touching elegy, beautifully sustained so long as you do not question too many details.Actually, either of the titles I gave to my first two reviews would work as well here. "Legacy of Loss" is what I said of What Is Left the Daughter in 2010, and the opening words of this latest book suggest that this will also be the theme here: "After my wife, Elizabeth Church, was murdered by the bellman Alfonse Padgett in the Essex Hotel...". The speaker is Sam Lattimore, a minor novelist living down the coast from Halifax, and his entire book is an extended process of mourning and remembering. But that first sentence continues: "...she did not leave me." For the lovely Elizabeth, killed after barely a year of marriage, comes back to Sam every evening on the beach of the small hamlet where he lives, and he will not be persuaded that she is not real. Hence the appropriateness of my other review title, for The Museum Guard in 2006: "Reality Meets the Unreal."Norman appears to prefer to live in the past. Those other two books were set in the late thirties and early forties. This one takes place in the early seventies, but many aspects of its thought-world seem even earlier. Sam has got a job writing sequels to forties radio soap operas. Elizabeth is researching a book by the almost-forgotten English novelist Marghanita Laski, The Victorian Chaise Longue, a kind of ghost story about a time-warp. Elizabeth herself is a fan of thirties cinema, and wears her hair in imitation of Veronica Lake or Myrna Loy. The couple live in a suite in a city hotel (another curious obsession of Norman's) whose atmosphere is more pre- than post-war. Alfonse Padgett, the obnoxious bellman, likes to speak like a gangster from a noir movie. And many of the significant flashback moments take place during a series of dance lessons in the hotel ballroom, devoted to that brief craze of the late twenties, the Lindy.Against this constant drift backwards in atmosphere, the action of the book keeps jumping back by shorter hops. One strand, consistently beautiful, is the description of Sam and Elizabeth's courtship and brief marriage. Another is what he talks about during his weekly visits with a psychiatrist. And another is the making of a movie of Sam and Elizabeth's story—an undertaking that he detests, even though he agreed for financial reasons. Interweaving in short chapters, these three elements move towards some sort of climax as the moment of Elizabeth's death approaches once more, both in the film and in her ghost's description of it. It kept me reading into the night, with no loss of sympathy, though I can't say I felt much further ahead once the climax was past.

  • Liviu
    2019-04-18 17:36

    Review March 2017Another re-read - this time as the author's next book (My Darling Detective) is almost out and the excerpt of that one reminded me of this; like a few recent rereads I really enjoyed Next Life Might Be Kinder much more now than on the original read - the reason is that now I really was in the mood to read it, while on release I felt "obligated" to read it then Anyway, the review below still expresses how I felt now on the reread about the novel, just that I really enjoyed the prose and the main character's real and imaginary life and thoughts much more this timeReview on original publication 2014High expectations from an author who wrote a few awesome books I read more than once and I still remember (especially Haunting of L and The Bird Artist); overall though I wasn't bowled over though Next Life Might be Kinder was better than his last 2 novels for sure, but it kind of repeated - unreliable, short on money and troubled narrator, the tragedy of his wife, the now expected twist that may have been powerful on first Howard Norman read, but now is kind of expected, the alternation of past and present, the atmosphere, the harsh but "I wouldn't live anywhere for anything" Canadian nature etcOn the other hand maybe I expected too much so I plan to give this one a reread sometime and it may improve then as the prose is still moving, the pages still turn by themselves and the narrator still compelling

  • ☕Laura
    2019-04-22 17:20

    The more I think about this book the more I realize how much I loved it. I was a fan of Howard Norman already, and of all the books I've read of his, this is my favorite to date. In simple prose and non-linear progression it reveals the story, layer by layer, of Sam Lattimore, a struggling writer whose wife was murdered shortly after their marriage. The story shifts between Sam's remembrances of life with the wife he adored and events leading up to the murder, descriptions of his sessions with his therapist, and glimpses into his life after the murder, which includes nightly visits with his dead wife and repeated overtures by the assistant of the obsessed film producer to whom he has sold his story. I found myself intrigued throughout and somehow the story really got under my skin. The ending was just perfect and capped off the whole book for me in a very beautiful way. This is a book I would like to re-read, and that is not something I often do.

  • Barb
    2019-04-11 19:23

    The overall mood of this novel is dark, sorrowful and brooding, it's about loss and regret but it's also about love and passion. Sam and Elizabeth are madly in love, as newlyweds, they live in Nova Scotia at the Essex Hotel in Halifax. It's there Elizabeth is murdered by one of the bellmen. Elizabeth Lattimore, is murdered in March, 1972. The narrative is told from her husband Sam's point of view in the first person, he shares his story with us until his birthday, January 17, 1974. As he remembers we go back in time with him, recalling how he and Elizabeth met, when they married, the intimate details of their married life. We learn about the Lindy dance lessons they take together in the ballroom of the Essex Hotel.Devastated by his grief Sam is at a loss to know how to live without Elizabeth. In a moment of weakness he sells their story to a movie producer. In the weeks and months that follow he replays the events that lead up to the murder, he also struggles with his decision to share his tragedy with the world. After Elizabeth's death he seeks help from psychiatrist, Dr. Nissensen, who he sees once a week. Through his work with the doctor he tries to offer rational explanations as to how his dead wife frequently visits him on the beach near his cottage. I really enjoyed this novel, it fell somehow familiar but I'm not sure why. I think it reminded me of fiction from decades past, when authors weren't trying so hard to be clever or unique, when you couldn't tell if they were working on their MFA or not, when good fiction was a good story written well. I guess that's the kind of fiction I like, a good story with a likeable protagonist and writing that moves me and makes me feel something. Although the story is set in the 1970s there's a timeless feel to it.

  • M
    2019-03-27 16:36

    Perhaps the best of all Howard Norman's books, to me. Sam's wife, Lizzie, is murdered by a hotel bellman in Halifax, Nova Scotia. About a year later when Sam moves from Halifax to a small seaside town some distance away, she appears to him almost every night on a nearby beach. Sam's friends although sceptical, are kind to him, but his psychiatrist spends session after session trying to probe with him what these nightly visitations actually "mean" in terms of Sam's grief. To complicate matters, Sam (who finds himself in financial hard times) has sold the story of the murder to a Norwegian film director who is obsessed with the story and tries to set up meetings with Sam via an intermediary in order to serve his artistic ends. Sam's downright loathing of the director, while it has comic undertones, has unexpected, shocking consequences. Add to this Sam's fascination with the novel which was to be the subject of his late wife's dissertation, and we have a multi-layered story that demonstrates the power of a true love that knows no boundaries. Whether Sam is actually seeing Lizzie on the beach ultimately doesn't matter; what does matter is that their love eases his grief and continues to enrich his life.

  • Tony Williams
    2019-04-11 12:28

    I'll give this book 2 stars, and not 1, since I like the author. He's an affable guy. And there's a few hints of sex so that's a bit titillating (yahoo). But otherwise, I don't get it. Maybe I should have been an english major so that I could have read a lot more into it. Oh, and the plot and style also makes it 2 stars and not 1. But otherwise, I kept waiting for the book to become a page turner, so that suspense kept me going. So, go ahead and read it and tell me what I'm missing. For me, it's a reminder that there's some risk in not reading a nationally known author, or a book that's not on a best seller list. Not all local authors are the greatest though some are decent. Sometimes, you find a diamond...sometimes they're just another rock. I was not impressed.

  • Elizabeth
    2019-04-06 18:34

    I am sorry to say that I apparently completely forgot that I read this book, involving a sorrowful man and the maybe-ghost of his murdered wife, until recently. Which should indicate to you exactly how interesting I found the lengthy manic-pixie-grad-student flashbacks involving the wife and her love of swing dancing. Needed more angry ghost and less wet noodles.

  • Mary
    2019-04-11 15:18

    I found the ending of this book unsatisfactory. It didn't feel like a conclusion so much as just a stop. Aside from that I thought the book was well written and the story was compelling. The story is set in Nova Scotia (Halifax and in a beach community an hour away) and the narrative switches back and forth between the present and about a year previous. I hadn't read anything by Norman before, but would read more of his work.

  • Patricia
    2019-04-24 15:36

    Sam and Elizabeth meet, fall in love, and quickly marry in Hailfax during the 70's. Elizabeth get murdered, and Sam has a rough time dealing with her death. I found Next Life Might Be Kinder to be very thought provoking, but the book is a slow read. This is a great story, however, but I felt it is missing something

  • Megan Kruse
    2019-04-02 12:35

    I wanted a better ending. The book was a little slow, and the ending was disappointing.

  • Lori
    2019-03-27 19:15

    Howard Norman is one of my favorite writers, and this is one of his best books. "Next Life Might Be Kinder" is layered with nuance and rich with subtext and symbolism and blessed by a soundtrack of The Boswell Sisters (thanks, Mr. Norman! They're amazing), full of poetry and birds and a ghost, the ghost of Sam Lattimore's murdered wife, his soulmate, his erotic partner, his Lindy partner, his great love and the Lattimores have a great and beautiful love.All of Mr. Norman's works are sensuous and sensual, sad and grappling. This one takes it to new heights. Everything Mr. Norman touches upon in "Next Life Might Be Kinder" is made beautiful, or more beautiful. Throughout the novel there's breathtaking beauty in sadness, and sadness in beauty. And the cultural references provide clues to the characters and a backdrop for Mr. Norman's word paintings. There are scenes that one would swear take place in Edward Hopper's "Nighthawks." The esoteric nature of the material is enriched and grounded by these cultural references, including Hopper's painting and an obscure and intriguing work by writer Marghanita Laski.By all means put The Boswell Sisters on from Youtube while reading this book. Do what I did fifty pages ago and order a novel by protagonist Sam Lattimore's favorite author, Brian Moore. More, more, more. The book is made of revelation, murder and lovemaking, an enigmatic psychiatrist, a ghost?, a tragic murder and one that the reader will feel surprisingly okay about, an insensitive director, a mousy librarian, fine wine, those Boswell Sisters, bouillabaisse, love, an enigmatic writer, a writer wrestling with enigma, and a chaise longue. Read it and weep.

  • Laurel Deloria
    2019-04-22 15:13

    Very interesting, "murder story which is not a mystery". Good characters, interesting plot, a touch tedious with the psychiatrist, but clear, clean and altogether pleasant.Amazon:“Norman elegantly crafts a murder story that isn’t a mystery; a ghost story without shivers. At its heart, this is a bittersweet love story, about the hole left in a life.” — Seattle TimesSam Lattimore meets Elizabeth Church in 1970s Halifax, in an art gallery. Their brief, erotically charged marriage is extinguished with Elizabeth’s murder. Sam’s life afterward is complicated. In a moment of desperate confusion, he sells his life story to a Norwegian filmmaker named Istvakson, known for the stylized violence of his films, whose artistic drive sets in motion an increasingly intense cat-and-mouse game between the two men. Furthermore, Sam has begun “seeing” Elizabeth—not only seeing but holding conversations with her, almost every evening, and what at first seems simply hallucination born of terrible grief reveals itself, evening by evening, as something else entirely. “Beautifully and carefully written and unique, its meaning both elegant and elusive.” — Ann Beattie“Compelling and satisfying. Howard Norman has written a complex literary novel and a page-turner that’s impossible to put down.” — Minneapolis Star Tribune

  • Katie Marquette
    2019-04-08 12:34

    I can't stop thinking about this book. Without giving much away, I'll just give you this image: A man's dead wife meets him every night on the beach. She has eleven books she stacks in front of her. She talks to him. She is afraid to tell him the details of how she died. A haunting, erotic story - charged with mystery, despair, and - somehow, also, humor. The "play within a play," "movie within a movie" narrative is powerful - Elizabeth keeps yelling at her murderer, "You think you're in a movie!" And, of course, in light of the media coverage of her death, the story does in fact become a movie. Sam is a sympathetic narrator. Some of my favorite scenes were in his therapy sessions. His doctor, a kind man, tells Sam that seeing Elizabeth on the beach is a delusion, a way of coping with grief. Sam gets angrier and angrier - "Elizabeth is not a coping mechanism. She is the love of my life. She is my wife." The lines between death and life grow fuzzy. 'Situational ethics' is discussed. The true nature of friendship is revealed. What we know and what we don't know becomes somewhat irrelevant. "Black outs" are common. Who stole those eleven books from the library? This is a beautiful book. I'll leave you with the last line: "I'm not here, touch me."

  • Kristie
    2019-03-31 17:39

    Years ago I read The Bird Artist by the same author and really enjoyed it. This book is a quick read and there is something very special about it. Perhaps it is because of personal circumstances in my own life that I found the book so touching. The whole notion of coping with grief - of migrating through the loss of someone very dear. This book is a love story. It is sexy, it is funny and it is thought-provoking. The writing is excellent and I honestly found it to be quite profound.

  • judy dever
    2019-04-09 16:10

    DifferentThis is such a different book, confusing at times , but very thought provoking. I probably should give it a 4 but didn't't because although the writing was really good, I often felt frustrated by it and just kept reading. It seemsto me it was left "hanging" at the end, unfinished.

  • Ray Hubley
    2019-04-13 14:16

    Astonishing. A singular author in full command of hisunique and resplendent metier. This sent me rushing headlong into another Howard Norman book and then the bitter-sweet discovery that I've actually read almost all of his published novels.Quickly scooped five $1 paperback copies on Alibris to hand off to friends and fellow book lovers.Read it and enjoy!

  • James
    2019-04-15 15:35

    stellar... he writes so well it almost seems to easy... nothing not to like about this, every page is wonderfully penned... erotically charged isn't half right, this was amazingly sensual even as some of the passages were short, almost peripheral at times... fantastic novel...

  • Richard
    2019-03-31 12:13

    Norman intrigues and frustrates, mostly thru his main characters. This one is a bit more deserving of a reader's sympathies, and the plot moves along if in small chapter steps, but to a disappointing finale. However, the getting there was enjoyable; maybe that's the point.

  • John McDonald
    2019-04-21 19:21

    A superficial but intriguing exploration of the fantasies the mind creates when someone who is loved suddenly dies or leaves. This is a fine work of literature and a great mystery that kept me glued to the book until I had finished it.

  • Elaine
    2019-04-07 18:31

    Excellent use of alternating time line chapters. Read this book if you want to know how it's done. Masterful writing. Unique characters and situations. All promises fulfilled.

  • John Dolan
    2019-04-18 11:15

    NLMBK has some limpid, beautiful writing, but ultimately I feel like I was waiting for a pay-off that never came.

  • Mary Lynn
    2019-04-14 17:15

    So so. Mans wife is killed. He hallucinates she visits him every night. Not much

  • Bill
    2019-04-09 14:12

    Rock solid 3 Stars!“After my wife, Elizabeth Church, was murdered by the bellman Alfonse Padgett in the Essex Hotel, she did not leave me … the truth is, I saw Elizabeth last night … she was lining up books on the beach behind Philip and Cynthia Slayton’s house, just across the road. I’ve seen her do the same thing almost every night since I moved, roughly thirteen months ago, from Halifax to this cottage.”So begins the first page of the first chapter of the story of Sam and Elizabeth Lattimore, a couple madly in love with each other in the early 1970s in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Elizabeth aspires to be a university professor and is working on her dissertation at Dalhousie University while Sam is a writer working on his second novel called "Thinking Gently on Libraries". They meet at an art opening at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in late August 1972 and are married the following January. They love each other madly and take up residence in the Essex Hotel. They are literary obsessed, short wave radio obsessed, espresso obsessed! Their intimacy is frequent and adoring. Life is idyllic until the creepy bellman Alfonse Padgett becomes obsessed with Elizabeth.Complicating matters is shortly after Elizabeth's death, perhaps under the duress of his personal loss and financial strain of a developing career, Sam signs over the rights to their story to screen writer Peter Istvakson and Pentagonal Films for $125,000. Filming is shot in the Essex in Halifax and the constant reminder of the loss of his wife and harassment of Sam by Istvaskson and his assistant for details of his life with Elizabeth results in some dire unintended consequences.The story skips back and forth in time between the lives of Sam and Elizabeth at the Essex and their academic pursuits and Sam's new life in Port Medway where he’s purchased a cottage from the Slayton’s and sees Elizabeth on the beach. Each time he sees her, Elizabeth lines up eleven books side by side. Sam insists he sees Elizabeth and speaks with her on that beach but he can never convince his therapist or anyone else these encounters are real. In the end Sam suffers a nervous breakdown and after a thirty day hospitalization his relationship with Elizabeth’s spirit is in question.I loved the sweet, hypnotic writing style of the novel and each and every morning I couldn’t wait to get back to the story. This is a beautifully written love story for sure and I felt the intense passion Sam and Elizabeth shared before her death and Sam’s unending love for Lizzy after her murder. Did he truly see Elizabeth on the beach and have conversations with her spirit or was Sam suffering emotional delusions and hallucinations from his loss? After all eleven books did go missing from a donated collection at the Port Medway Library, all children’s books set in Wales. Elizabeth was interred in her home town Hay-on-Wye Wales.Only the individual reader can decide what Sam Lattimore truly saw on the beach each night in Port Medway. But every reader will be able to feel the true love and passion for life of this young Nova Scotia couple. Enjoy!

  • Lawrence
    2019-03-27 12:20

    I was awarded this pre-publication copy of "Next Life Might Be Kinder" through the Goodreads lottery.I continue to like Howard Norman's work very much. This time Mr. N. takes us into actual modern times --- the early 1970's! Since I was a young man at that time, I can vouch for the accuracy of the details though I cannot speak for details particular to 1970's Nova Scotia where the story plays out. The accuracy makes me confident regarding Mr. N's creation of scenes from earlier time periods, as in his book "The Museum Guard", for example. I think this skill, undoubtedly fortified by hard work, is important because thereby the actual scene that Mr. N. creates makes the reader believe that the story is true in the sense of immediately happening before the reader's eyes. Better put, perhaps, the books are made to seem a unique window into real people in a real past. I've said in another review of a book by Mr. N. that he creates cinema, that the books are like films. Perhaps, I meant to say that, first, that Mr. N. has a talent for awakening the visual in me without very much description and, second, that his "films" have a "reality show" quality.I think that the realism is enhanced by the first person narrative. And Mr. N. has to be one of the greatest first-person writers alive. Through the first-person, the protagonist, living in the "reality show", acting on the other side of the window I mentioned above, comes up to the window and speaks directly to us. Excellent. Once again Mr. N. presents us with a protagonist/observer who is a serious, sometimes humorless, yet essentially innocent and single-hearted young man. This is always a young man who is rootless because he lacks family or is orphaned or otherwise slightly alienated, by his intelligence or his work. The young man's essential innocence does not mean that the young man is not capable of thoughts of violence and hatred and even of acts of violence. Indeed, it is the tense proximity of innocence and violence that create the ground of suspense for me.In the case of "Next Life Might Be Kinder", the hero is a writer without any seeming family background. He falls in love, and his charming young wife is murdered. (This is not a spoiler as Mr. N. states this fact in the book's first sentence.) There is no question who is the murderer and, by the book's beginning, he has already been tried and imprisoned. The question of the book is how the young man deals with the tragedy --- through his excellently written therapy sessions to his friendship with the couple "across the street", to his antipathy for the film director and crew who paid him for the rights to the "story" of the murder, to his essential, maddening unhappiness relieved only by a certain mystery.I hope this book does well.

  • Sonya L Moore
    2019-04-20 12:21

    How can you resist a book that opens with this line? "After my wife, Elizabeth Church, was murdered by the bellman, Alfonse Padgett in the Essex Hotel, she did not leave me." It is almost the perfect opening line, right up there with the perfect murder mystery - "My God, said the Queen, I'm pregnant. I wonder who done it?" Seriously though, I truly enjoyed the beautiful writing of this book as well as the story line of a man grieving his lost love. Even the Washington Post finds it, “Quirky and probing . . . riveting . . . sexy.”From Amazon:“Norman elegantly crafts a murder story that isn’t a mystery; a ghost story without shivers. At its heart, this is a bittersweet love story, about the hole left in a life.” — Seattle TimesSam Lattimore meets Elizabeth Church in 1970s Halifax, in an art gallery. Their brief, erotically charged marriage is extinguished with Elizabeth’s murder. Sam’s life afterward is complicated. In a moment of desperate confusion, he sells his life story to a Norwegian filmmaker named Istvakson, known for the stylized violence of his films, whose artistic drive sets in motion an increasingly intense cat-and-mouse game between the two men. Furthermore, Sam has begun “seeing” Elizabeth—not only seeing but holding conversations with her, almost every evening, and what at first seems simply hallucination born of terrible grief reveals itself, evening by evening, as something else entirely. “Beautifully and carefully written and unique, its meaning both elegant and elusive.” — Ann Beattie“Compelling and satisfying. Howard Norman has written a complex literary novel and a page-turner that’s impossible to put down.” — Minneapolis Star Tribune

  • Ann
    2019-04-10 11:27

    What a beautifully written book! It's about hanging on to love when the beloved is gone, about grieving, about not being able to let go. But all those psychology cliches don't do justice to the elegance of this book.It's essentially a series of vignettes written by Sam, a Canadian novelist. The book starts by telling you that his wife was shot by Alfonse Padgett, bellman at the Essex Hotel, so it's clear from the outset that this is a story of grief. Sam describes how he met and married Elizabeth, and their happy months together living in the Essex hotel. He writes radio plays; she works on her dissertation; they take a lindy hop class together. The only fly in the ointment is Alfonse, whose come-ons to Elizabeth become progressively more violent, and which ultimately lead to murder. As the story of Sam and Elizabeth's relationship unfolds, we also get vignettes of Sam's current life : he lives in a remote cottage, sees his psychotherapist once a week, and tries to ignore the fact that a megalomaniac of a film director is shooting a movie about Elizabeth's death. But the most important thing, to Sam, is that almost every night he sees Elizabeth on the beach, aligning books and talking to him. The psychotherapist thinks these are grief-induced hallucinations; Sam says he "really" sees Elizabeth. The power of the book is such that I didn't care what it was- I felt so gripped by Sam's emotions and need. Although Sam and Elizabeth's love story is not any more original than that of any other couple, the book is an ode to romantic love, and all without one word of soppiness.