I gave it a: 4 of 5 stars
I was given a free copy of “Gone” through an author review group in exchange for an honest review. “Nothing done is ever wasted” – an absolutely brilliant quote from “Gone” by Julie Elizabeth Powell helped make my reading experience a surprising one since I’m not typically a fan of fantasy. I normally read contemporary romance, suspense and historicals.
The main character, Charley Woods is an executive and mother of a girl who suffered brain damaged as an infant and had to be put in a permanent care facility for which Charley feel miserably guilty. Charley wishes her daughter had died, or that she could end the daughter’s life herself, and because of these horrible thoughts, Charley is ridden with a life-time of remorse. Which makes one wonder what she has left to offer her husband and other children?
But Powell doesn’t explore those feelings as much as I would have liked, even at the end. Heart sick with her sorrow, Charley sits down in a chair in her office and basically dies. Her spirit leaps into the throes of a NDE-Near Death Experience. This subject is something my own husband explores extensively, so I’m totally versed with the experiences of other people who have died and been revived. In this case, the parallels ended at Powell’s fantasy version of what happens to real people who experience NDE’s.
Powell’s character Charley is transported in her NDE to an Alice-in-Wonderland/Wizard-of-Oz/Shrek-esk fantasy world where she find the spirit of her brain-dead daughter. Powell does spend a lot of time painting vivid imagery of her afterlife world, and most are enjoyable. Charley is not alone in her experience. She has guides much like the White Rabbit, the Mad Hatter, the Caterpillar and Toto. Through her experiences in the Avalon-titled fantasy world, Charley is unbelieving, filled with self-doubt, guilt and denial, and must face trials of her faith before she can leave.
But the book has problems. It was very long and challenging to read. I was confused a lot of the time. There are unnecessarily drawn-out passages of description of Powell’s fantasy world and uninspiring, everyday dialogue, and lengthy narrative explanations of what was going on from the fantasy characters. And some of Powell’s structural issues with her writing were difficult to ignore. If you are a fan of fantasy/sci-fi/NDE’s, you might find this book interesting.
Because Powell’s book contains a wonderful message of hope, enduring life with faith, learning to love and forgive others and yourself, and overcoming self-persecution, it was saved from getting the 3-Star review I might have given.