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The Afterlives

3.53  ·  Rating details ·  1,533 ratings  ·  261 reviews
A love story that asks: what happens after we die? The debut novel from National Book Award 5 Under 35 Winner and author of the “ridiculously good” (New York Times) collection Hall of Small Mammals.

Jim Byrd died. Technically. For a few minutes. The diagnosis: heart attack at age thirty. Revived with no memory of any tunnels, lights, or angels, Jim wonders what—if anything—
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published January 9th 2018 by Riverhead Books
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Mark I agree totally with where you are coming from Laurie. I thought that chapter would end with some cool reveal but it didn't have a pay-off at all. I g…moreI agree totally with where you are coming from Laurie. I thought that chapter would end with some cool reveal but it didn't have a pay-off at all. I guess it was trying to get across the importance of non-linear existence...that all of those things happened at different times but that in the afterlife we can revisit them all. Or something like that.(less)
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Average rating 3.53  · 
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 ·  1,533 ratings  ·  261 reviews

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“ Buddha and Moses and all the noses
From narrow to flat
Had to stand in the line
Just to glimpse the divine
What’cha think about that?
Well, it seems like our fate
To suffer and wait for the knowledge we seek
It’s all His design
No one cuts in the line
No one here likes a sneak

You got to fill out a form first
And then you wait in the line
You got to fill out a form first
And then you wait in the line

-- The Afterlife, Paul Simon, Songwriter: Paul Simon

”Exit heartbeat.
Exit breath.
Exit every mood, every mem
Mar 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Part ghost story, part love story, part philosophical/scientific time-travel mishmash, Thomas Pierce's The Afterlives has a little something for everyone. If you like reading plot books that highlight relationships, or wonder a lot about theories of death and existence and "daisy holes" (as they're called here) separating present from past from future, eureka! You've found your book!

For me, a fun pleasure read, which I don't often treat myself to. I like my books a bit chewier, as a rule, but so
This is a peculiar book, and I liked it but I'm not quite sure what to make of it. From the start I found the narrator offputting, but whenever I thought I might as well give up, something hooked me and pulled me back in – a story about a ghost on a staircase that's titled 'The Tale of the Dog on Fire'; an organisation called 'the Church of Search' which has holograms giving inspirational talks; historical chapters that move back and forth through a character's life as though time is not linear ...more
Jessica Sullivan
Following a near-death experience during which he technically died for several minutes, 33-year-old Jim Byrd becomes hyper-aware of his own mortality. Death seems to be everywhere. There's a ghost haunting a restaurant owned by one of his clients. He even lives in a retirement town where "old people come to die."

Consumed by his uncertainty about what happens in the afterlife (and convinced from his own experience that the answer is nothing) Jim and his wife Annie search for proof. They learn abo
Ron Charles
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Thomas Pierce approaches the interplay of technology and immortality with considerable subtlety in his debut novel, "The Afterlives." The story opens as 33-year-old Jim Byrd is revived from sudden cardiac arrest. He is happy to be back but dismayed that during the minutes he was technically dead he “saw nothing. No light, no tunnels, no angels.” That would seem to snuff out prospects for the great beyond. Yet Jim, a loan officer, ends up approving the mortgage for an old building that may be hau ...more
Sep 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2017
I work in an independent book shop and we have countless ARCs at our disposal. I'm always looking for an interesting read by an author I have never heard of. I found a little gem in this one. This is a quiet, but very engaging, story with likable and believable characters. There is also a ghost story within the story that stands on its own. After a near death experience, the main character becomes obsessed with the afterlife and what it may hold for all of us. It's a very thought provoking book. ...more
The Afterlives has a quirky, off-beat premise that caught my attention when I read the synopsis. Unfortunately, the premise was the most interesting thing about it.

** Spoilers ahead **

After a near death experience, thirty-three year old Jim Byrd embarks on a quest to find the meaning of life.

Is there an afterlife? Do we live on after death? Does it matter?

These deep, existential questions fall flat when we meet Jim Byrd, a boring, dull, bland white male who lacks wit, talent or any discer
Tyler Goodson
Oct 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arcs
Jim's new life begins when he almost dies, a life in which he finds love, hears a ghost, meets a psychic, and tries to find out what happens after we die. His journey leads him through life, death, and in between, but for Jim, the questions keep coming. What does it mean to lose? Or to move on after loss? Pierce has written a brilliantly imaginative and beautiful novel about the big, impossible questions, fear of the unknown, and the people who keep us from spiraling into the darkness. ...more
Apr 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Rating: All of the stars!!!!!

There are no words!!

Recommended for: Everyone who wonders what's next or enjoys the big questions or loves to see the gorgeous in the plain mundane everydayness of life or those who like their sci-fi light and sprinkled with a very contemporary feel.

Totally fangirling right now!
Melissa Rochelle
Sep 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc, read-2017
This novel defies description. It's a ghost story. It's futuristic. It's a love story. It's science fiction. It’s a mix of all of that and somehow comes together into a cohesive story that I really enjoyed. ...more
Feb 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Pierce is not afraid to confront the big questions about life, death and the thereafter in THE AFTERLIVES. His exploration of mortality and technology was particularly interesting (holograms are terrifying). How do we live when we know we will die, everyone we love will die, everyone who loves us will die? How? It’s unbearable and yet we face it each and every day. This book is definitely for those of us who spend a lot of time thinking these thoughts. I loved it.
Mary & Tom
Aug 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Thomas Pierce has a new fan. I really enjoyed his novel The Afterlives. Jim Byrd has a heart condition that leads to him dying for several minutes and then being revived.

The book centers around his search for answers to the question is their an afterlife. Wonderful characters and engaging writing.
Jan 16, 2018 rated it liked it
I wish this book had been a little less Straight White Dude in its perspective. The writing is great, especially in how genuinely it earns its emotional payoffs, but at the end of the day what I couldn't shake off was the disappointment in how obvious and boring the narrator's problems were.

He's another white dude concerned with mortality but only in a philosophical sense, which speaks to his relative safety and comfort living in the world. I'm not calling for the book to be written from a marg
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Thomas Pierce brings all the components of a good story to the table: humor, empathy, and ingenuity. I lapped up this creative and touching novel, flying through it as I was flying home over the Pacific Ocean. Jim and Annie build a life together and wander through a future that does not feel too far away from us now. I'll be thinking about them and the elements of their story for days and weeks to come. The future of American fiction, honestly, feels brighter to me, knowing that it is buoyed by ...more
Sep 09, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction, 1-star
I fell victim to strong marketing. The main character is dull, the story is boring, and the dialogue is adjective heavy. Reads like a YA novel. Case in point in why I plan to be much more leery about new releases moving forward.
A really wonderful read that I stumbled on and decided to read due to its front flap summary. This is a story about Jim, who due to a heart arrhythmia has a near death experience that he finds largely disappointing and disturbing as there are no bright lights, long tunnels or angelic escorts as he expected from "near death" accounts in the media. He then hears of a "haunting" at a local restaurant and feels contact with this ghost may serve as a conduit between this world and the next. From ther ...more
amber [ cozynaturereads] ☁️🌞💗
I finished this the other day and I have mixed feelings about it. The premise was good. I was super interested in this book the first 3 parts of the book and then I found myself falling asleep while reading. Not highlighting or tabbing anymore. I became a bit bored in the last 2 parts.

This story follows a man named Jim who dies for a bit after having a heart attack. Once surviving he was mad because he didn’t see like a light or angels while he was out. He has to have like a “pacemaker” type th
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dnf, fiction
I really wanted to like this book. I read the synopsis and was so excited when I finally got my hands on it! However, this book ended up putting me to sleep. I couldn't get into it at all. I enjoyed the main character's thoughts but unfortunately none of it was memorable. It also doesn't help that the book is divided five parts with no chapters within each section to help you digest the story easier.

Uriel Perez
Sep 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
A tender and often comical telling of one man's quest to discover the existence and depths of the afterlife — a journey that takes Jim Byrd to New Age churches, into an investigation of a haunted staircase, and in pursuit of a physicist who may or may not have constructed a machine with the ability to bring us in contact with the deceased. Thomas Pierce's first novel is layered with heart, humor and tremendous revelations concerning our technology-ridden lives. ...more
Cletus Van
Feb 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This booked echoed many thoughts I've had in my life. I absolutely loved The Afterlives, I didn't want the story to end. It was poetic, insightful, funny, generous, and a little futuristic. Full of faith and doubt and complex characters. It left me reminiscing about vignettes in my life for days on end. ...more
Feb 16, 2019 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
what an odd, completely wonderful book. thoroughly enjoyed it :)
Sarah Tittle
Feb 20, 2018 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. I like what Pierce is doing here--exploring how technology has changed the way we think about death, or at least the way we think about what happens after we die. I like the fact that the main character is an average-Joe-type person, and I like the setting (maybe only because that part of the world is familiar to me). But after a big warm up, I grew increasingly disappointed with this story. Maybe it's the hologram twist and the way it lends a vague sci-fi tone that really turned me o ...more
Katherine Moore
Oct 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book almost defies description and I'm still basically 'speechless' upon finishing. Yes, I can say it's a fictional novel (unless author Pierce knows things we don't!), but then I can tell you all the different genres and subjects it touches: fantasy, the supernatural/ghosts, sci-fi and aliens, relationships, religion and the question of God, conspiracy theories, and the biggest question of all - what happens to us all when we die.
The novel begins when Jim Byrd dies for a few minutes, but h
Jun 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
I was pretty convinced this was a 3 book, which for me still means quite good, but the last 1/4 really upped it and I’m left feeling adrift. I want to reread the ending, and I want to discuss with someone, wah!
Tracie Gutknecht
Feb 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
First off, I think the cover is stupid. There is a thing about the dog in the book, but like the book, it doesn't really convey the message of the story.

Jim Byrd dies for a few minutes and remembers absolutely nothing, no white lights, no dead family members visiting, nothing but blank/blackness. He is given a heartnet which keeps his heart beating and is a replacement to a pacemaker, but with a battery life of 200 years. Thus, conceivably his heart could continue to beat even after he is dead.
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
It's tough not to think of Don Delillo's masterwork White Noise here. Both books expound on humanity's fear of death and on our mundane technological and consumerist distractions designed to mitigate this fear. And both are very funny despite their weighty subject matter. What's different is, of course, the 30 years that have elapsed between the two works. While Delillo's book was informed by 1980s Cold War dread and the fear of nuclear annihilation, Pierce's is framed by the emergence of artifi ...more
Early on I was thinking of ditching this book because I was struggling to connect with the main character, but I usually like to try and get to page 50, unless the writing is utter drivel. The writing here was solid and so I pressed on. Good Lord I'm glad I did!! This might end up being one of my favorites of 2018. It falls snuggly in the capital "L" section of Literary Fiction, in that it discusses Big Themes (in this case death and what happens after) and not a whole lot happens (that's not ex ...more
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-release
I really enjoyed this book. it has elements of paranormal and science fiction but doesn't feel like a paranormal or science fiction novel. Mostly it reads like a regular story which occasional odd things happening.

I found it to be an easy and quick read. I really liked the flow of the book and the characters (who all seem just slightly weird enough to be pretty normal).

I mostly loved the book's idea of what the afterlife is like. Having lost some important people in my life, I think about what
Cary Fitzgerald
Aug 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed it very much. The kind of poignant story which you are still thinking about several days later. Ghost story plus philosophical exercise plus love story. Seems like some reviewers don't like the fact that the story doesn't have a nicely wrapped, tight ending. I think that was kind of the author's point. And I thought the idea made the story work very well. Definitely recommend. ...more
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Thomas Pierce is the author of the novel, The Afterlives (Riverhead 2018), and the short story collection, Hall of Small Mammals. A recipient of the 5 Under 35 award from the National Book Foundation, his stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Zoetrope, The Oxford American, and Virginia Quarterly Review and anthologized in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2014 and The O ...more

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