With Halloween and the Day of the Dead coming up, I thought it would be a good time to talk about the dead, or specifically, customs and beliefs about the afterlife. I talked briefly about Navajo beliefs last week. However, that's only one culture. If you want to read about a variety of afterlife beliefs, I recommend Terri Bruce's Afterlife series. (These two books were originally traditionally published, but after some problems with her publisher, Bruce was able to get the rights back and republished them herself.) Currently, there are two books in the series: Hereafter and Thereafter. I think the next one will be called Whereafter, but I have no idea when it will be released.
I reviewed Hereafter and Thereafter in April's issue of Indie Writers Monthly. (That issue is no longer available on its own, but you can still get it as part of the October 2014 issue.) The two books follow Irene Dunphy as she progresses through various stages of the afterlife. The first book, Hereafter, follows Irene right after her death. She remains on Earth as a ghost, able to see the people she loves but unable to talk to them. The only living person she can talk to is Jonas (I think that's his name), a teenage boy who has researched death and is able to see dead people. Jonas acts as Irene's guide to the afterlife, explaining all the customs he's read about from different cultures. (For example, in one scene, Irene visits a place in Chinatown where offerings are left for the dead.) Deaths and burials are important, since objects buried with dead people can be used by them. Irene died in a car crash, so everything that was in her car crosses over with her, giving her an advantage. Irene and Jonas review death customs to figure out why some dead people have progressed past Earth while others remain behind.
In the second book, Irene progresses to another level of the afterlife but finds herself, along with countless others from many historical areas, stuck and unable to move farther. I don't want to give details away, but the obstacle is a well-known one from myth. Fortunately, she is still able to communicate with Jonas, and his knowledge of burial customs becomes key to resolving the plot.
If there is interest, next week I can talk about two other indie books I read this year that have different takes on dying and the afterlife.