What happens when we are dying? Do our lives pass before our eyes? First-time author Jean Solbert explores those questions with this tiny novel about a man who has been separated from someone named Becky and is searching for her.
Solbert’s main character, simply introduced as “the man,” is confused, lost on a trail in an unnamed forest. “His graying hair was mussed, as if someone had pulled his hat off sideways. But there was no hat in evidence,” writes Solbert in the first chapter, entitled “Lost.”
The man continues his search and as he looks, he finds himself observing himself and his family, beginning with his childhood.
We learn that the man’s name is James Bradley; Becky is his beloved wife. The scenes he wanders into on his journey are scenes from his life, first as a small boy and later as a grown man with children of his own. James is intrigued by these glimpses of his past, but he is focused on his search for Becky, too. Will he find her? Where does his walking take him?
Solbert’s book isn’t the first to use a walk in the woods as a metaphor for dying and prelude to the afterlife. But in this small work, the author does a beautiful job with well-chosen words and a talent for simple, yet effective description. When James revisits his childhood home, for example, Solbert writes: “The man looked at the woman again, his mother, as she moved efficiently around the kitchen, her long skirt and apron ruffling…”
Solbert uses the foggy, unknown woods as an introduction to most of his short chapters; they envelope his characters at first, but each time, the fog clears to reveal more about James’ life. Readers will find themselves cheering for James as he walks through his life, and they won’t be disappointed by the ending.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.