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Reviewed by Darryl Greer for Readers' Favorite
J.R. Wirth’s In Passing is labelled fiction suspense and rightly so, but it could easily be tagged as paranormal or fantasy. Mary Elizabeth Stroll, in the first person sections of the story, is known as Lizzie, a fourteen-year-old, and in the third person parts as Mary, now in her early twenties. Lizzie has a disturbing life as a teenager — a drunken mother, an abusive step-father, and a life so grim that even at that age she decides to end it by overdosing on her mother’s pills. In the afterlife, she meets Bart, another suicide victim, and they embark on a paranormal journey of discovery, along the way confronting other youths with equally disturbing backgrounds. In current day, Mary meets Alex, a trainee Catholic priest and psychotherapist, who is preparing a thesis on NDEs — near death experiences — and she agrees to a day-long interview. It is during this interview that she relates to Alex her haunting experiences with Bart and the reader is treated to a first hand description of those events as her fascinating narration unfolds. As the story draws to a close, there is the inevitable twist in the tale, and the various questions that scream at the reader from the earlier pages are finally answered. Interwoven throughout the story, in both the ‘before’ and ‘after’ sections, are such controversial issues as suicide, runaways, school bullying, abortion, child and substance abuse, all treated with due respect.
There is a sense of mystery and enchantment throughout In Passing. A licensed psychotherapist himself, J.R. Wirth obviously knows his stuff and in this, his first full length novel, he is not afraid to delve into issues that some might prefer to avoid. Excellent prose is used in the telling of this story, the narrative expressed in flawless, descriptive text that brings the characters to life. Paranormal they may be, but the scenes are easily visualised, the dialogue carrying the story forward like a suspenseful movie script. In the earlier parts of the novel, I was a little confused as to what was going on and who was who, but as I read on the fog began to clear and before long I realised what a treat this work really is. As the blurb for this book says, here we have a story that is both dark, yet romantic, paranormal yet somehow real. In Passing is a unique tale of love that endures even beyond death.