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Next Life Might Be Kinder

3.64  ·  Rating Details  ·  462 Ratings  ·  110 Reviews
“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
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published May 13th 2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2014)
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Rebecca Foster
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 Tyl ...more
Larry Hoffer
May 02, 2014 Larry Hoffer rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
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, h
Jun 20, 2014 Melissa rated it liked it
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
Jun 17, 2014 Stacey Peters rated it it was amazing
Shelves: vermont-authors
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 ...more
Feb 19, 2015 ☕Laura rated it it was amazing
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 h ...more
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 remembe
Apr 03, 2016 M rated it it was amazing
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, S ...more
Tony Williams
Jan 03, 2015 Tony Williams rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Aug 05, 2014 Elizabeth rated it it was ok
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.
May 19, 2014 Liviu rated it really liked it
High 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 bee4n powerful on first Howard Norman read, but now is kind of expected, the alternation of pas ...more
May 26, 2014 Patricia rated it liked it
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
Sonya L Moore
Nov 23, 2015 Sonya L Moore rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Kathleen Hagen
Next Life Might be Kinder,by Howard Norman, b-plus, Narrated by Bronson Pinchot, Produced by Blackstone audio, downloaded from

Sam and Elizabeth were a newly married couple. They had lived together before their marriage, but their romantic life had been brief and very full of love. They lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Sam had a job writing radio dramas while Elizabeth was finishing her thesis and writing a novel. Elizabeth decided to take a class teaching the stylized steps of the
Uwe Hook
Sep 14, 2014 Uwe Hook rated it liked it
Sam's wife Elizabeth was murdered by the bellman at the hotel where they were living. In an act of both grief and financial desperation, Sam sells the movie rights to an arrogant director. The director's obsession with the story and relentless inquisitiveness alienates Sam who is now having visions of his late wife. Is this psychosis, a normal but extreme reaction to loss or a supernatural event?

Although nicely written, this book 's quirky, dream like style failed to enchant. It is set in the se
Aug 05, 2014 Nick rated it liked it
A thought provoking book that picks up momentum in the last 80 or so pages.

The first sentence ("After my life, Elizabeth Church, was murdered by the bellman Alfonse Padgett in the Essex Hotel, she did not leave me.") is a keeper. Elizabeth and Sam have been married for less than a year and living in a Halifax, Nova Scotia hotel when the creepy, lovelorn Padgett shoots her. The rest of the novel finds Sam dealing with his grief.

When he moves away to a semi-secluded beach-side cottage, he begins
Jul 01, 2014 Tim rated it it was amazing
Howard Norman's work continues to intrigue me. The first sentence of the novel, "After my wife, Elizabeth Church, was murdered by the bellman Alfonse Padgett in the Essex Hotel, she did not leave me," tells the story in brief, and the novel then explores the meaning of this sentence in exquisite and reverberating detail. Norman's gift is in the exploration of the depths of his characters, with concrete detail setting context (Sam Lattimore's references to the birds revealing his emotional landsc ...more
May 25, 2014 Jayna rated it it was ok
I received a copy via the GoodReads First Reads program.

I entered the giveaway because I thought the blurb sounded intriguing. For whatever reason, I didn't really connect with this book. I actually only read about half before quitting. I rarely quit a book, but I found that I had zero interest in finding out what happens.

The book is told in three ways. Some chapters are flashback chapters that take you back to the events leading up to Elizabeth's death, but they are told in 'real time'. Some p
Jun 28, 2014 Karen rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I'm still not totally sure what I thought of this book. I was not familiar with Mr. Norman's writing. If you had asked me if I liked this book when I was about halfway through, when I was just about to give up on it, I would have given it maybe 1 1/2 stars. But I'm glad I finished it, because the ending was well worth persevering.

Sam Lattimore and Elizabeth Chuech meet, fall deeply in love, and marry. Shortly thereafter, Elizabeth is shot and killed by a bellman in the hotel where Sam and Lizzie
May 03, 2015 Bill rated it liked it
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,
Jun 05, 2014 Lawrence rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 01, 2014 Mary rated it liked it
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.
Nov 17, 2015 Lori rated it it was amazing
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
Lisa A. Carlson
Jun 19, 2014 Lisa A. Carlson rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: romantics
Recommended to Lisa A. by: Book Page
Shelves: fiction
An unconventional love story which reveals in the first sentence the plot of this gorgeously written novel. Educator and writer Howard Norman has created a ruminating story which has great depth in character and style. I loved the short titled chapters because there's no waiting for the next movement. I loved how Sam and Elizabeth Lattimore loved each other and lived their short lives together. This is a story which can easily resinate with the human spirit but as with most extraordinary novels ...more
May 25, 2015 Angela rated it it was ok
The plot of the book pulled me in from the back, but the characters (mostly the main one) seem so disjointed, and out of time with one another. The very stale, reactionary, and frankly pissed-off protagonist was that, until the very end. His wife being a hallucination or a ghost revealing herself to just him, was tender but even she didn't bring any comfort to the reader. With very little spark in his characters the man who shot his wife seems like a bad guy from a James Gagney film and so distr ...more
Feb 25, 2015 Lexie rated it liked it

I have always thought a person needs to constantly refine the capacity to suspend disbelief in order to keep emotions organized and not suffer debilitating confusion, and I mean just toward the things of daily life. I suppose this admits to a desperate sort of pragmatism. Still, it works for me. What human heart isn’t in extremis?

Year after year, rain enters your diary, as the Japanese say, and an exhaustive sadness prevails. And then suddenly one day you find the love of your life. Happe
Mark Willen
Dec 28, 2014 Mark Willen rated it it was amazing
This is a thought-provoking novel that challenges a reader on many levels. Sam Lattimor is the classic unreliable narrator who tells us at the very start of the book that his murdered wife often visits him. The novel is the story of the their marriage and Sam's efforts to deal with intolerable grief -- all told in the present, in flashbacks and in Sam's psychotherapy sessions. The tale is utterly convincing, except for the part about the ghostly visits of his late wife, but if you don't believe ...more
May 25, 2014 Alecia rated it liked it
I liked this book, and will bump up the rating to a 3.5. It was hard to put down, and yet quite mysterious and lyrical. Set in the early 1970's, Sam and Elizabeth have been married for about 2 years when she is murdered. You find out about the murder in the book's opening sentence, " After my wife, Elizabeth Church, was murdered by the bellman, Alfonse Padgett in the Essex Hotel, she did not leave me." Their marriage was seemingly one of two soul-mates, passionate and deeply in love. The book al ...more
May 16, 2014 Jeanette rated it liked it
Sad but rather lyrical. Married less than a year, a wife is murdered. Afterwards for months and months her husband sees her nearly every night placing 11 books in a line on a beach.

It's basically about grief and a soul mate marriage.

I'm surprised at myself for liking this book as much as I did. And I truly do not know how to review it. This is exactly the kind of book I usually dislike. It's poetic in one sense, psychological in another. But regardless always introspective of a couple major char
R.A. Raab
Jul 16, 2014 R.A. Raab rated it liked it
I wanted to like Next Life Might Be Kinder by Howard Norman. I really did. I enjoyed The Bird Artist and Northern Lights, and this book looked to be a quick read: it has short chapters like another book I’ve recently enjoyed, All the Light We Cannot See. But while I thought I was going to be reading some sort of ghost story (after a man’s wife has been murdered), it turned out to be more of a meditation on grief. There were quite a few elements that turn up throughout the story: books, a chaise ...more
Jul 01, 2014 Beth rated it liked it
Howard Norman has yet to write a novel that I have not really enjoyed. Although relatively short in length, I am always struck at how much depth his stories have. It seems like the author's equivalent to a magic trick. I'll be on page 20 and realize that somehow I've been given an incredible amount of character insight, plot and setting information. This is the story of an author who is seeing a psychiatrist following the recent murder of his wife. The widow insists that his deceased wife return ...more
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Howard A. Norman (born 1949), is an American award-winning writer and educator. Most of his short stories and novels are set in Canada's Maritime Provinces. He has written several translations of Algonquin, Cree, Eskimo, and Inuit folklore. His books have been translated into 12 languages.
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“I have always thought a person needs to constantly refine the capacity to suspend disbelief in order to keep emotions organized and not suffer debilitating confusion, and I mean just toward the things of daily life. I suppose this admits to a desperate sort of pragmatism. Still, it works for me. What human heart isn’t in extremis?” 0 likes
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