Notes on the Next Life

A Novel

Fiction - Religious Theme
194 Pages
Reviewed on 09/23/2023
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite

Notes on the Next Life by Gwen Chavarria is speculative fiction that follows the life and afterlife journey of Belinda. Raised by their grandmother, Belinda and her brother Roland were instilled with discipline. Belinda's life choices embody the first part of the story, including an unplanned pregnancy, marriage to Craig, and the challenges she faced, including a devastating loss. After her passing, Belinda embarks on an afterlife journey where she explores the nature of heaven, the role of God's messengers, and the concept of influence on Earth. Throughout the afterlife, Belinda reunites with loved ones, engages in discussions about ethics, and participates in celestial experiences. Other characters in the afterlife also have their accounts shared, including moments of reflection and spiritual growth, ultimately leading to a sense of unity and purpose among them.

Notes on the Next Life by Gwen Chavarria is a really creative and purposefully written story, and Chavarria develops her protagonist Belinda into a character we want to get to know better. I knew going in that there would be esoteric elements to the narrative, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much of the storyline they actually take up. While the afterlife proves beautiful for Belinda, not everyone shares in the same blessings, and, as a result, there are some really dark pieces of Chavarria's puzzle that come to light. Or, rather, their journeys go in a terrifying direction that is nowhere near the light. Chavarria reveals the afterlife in glowing detail, but the visual prose depicting Belinda's journey is outshone by the spiritual knowledge that is imparted by her guide. Overall, this is a thought-provoking and well-written work that will resonate with readers who are open to its message.

Pikasho Deka

Gwen Chavarria's Notes on the Next Life is a story about a woman named Belinda Bering. The book opens with a scene describing Belinda's time in her mother's womb and follows Belinda's life as she is raised by her grandmother Cora in a deeply religious household together with her younger brother Roland. When she is eighteen, Belinda learns of her birth parents' struggles with drug addiction, promising herself that she would never give in to worldly temptations. However, at college she accidentally gets pregnant, and has an abortion that she later regrets. Belinda survives an abusive marriage with a man named Craig while raising her daughter with severe disabilities, who eventually passes away. During her later years, she goes on a pilgrimage to Israel with her friend. Now, in the afterlife, she works toward reaching the seventh level of heaven.

Notes on the Next Life is a moving story of a woman and her lifelong journey to find God. Gwen Chavarria tells a powerful tale about faith and the resilient nature of the human spirit that draws inspiration from many different world religions. Chavarria's narrative particularly infuses Christian themes and lore to make some poignant points on the human condition that make you contemplate, no matter whether you're religious or not. This is primarily a theme-driven book, with the plot and the characters having background roles to shed light on some of the relevant social issues of the world today. Chavarria paces the story well and uses the book's latter half to showcase Belinda's experiences in heaven. I highly recommend this book to literary fiction readers.

K.C. Finn

Notes on the Next Life is a work of fiction in the religious, interpersonal drama, and emotive writing subgenres. It is best suited to the adult reading audience. Penned by author Gwen Chavarria, the work is a thought-provoking and unique novel that delves into the life and afterlife of its protagonist, Belinda Macomber Bering. In the earthly realm, the book traces Belinda's journey as an American woman, from her fetal life to her experiences, both positive and challenging, as she navigates the complexities of her world. It explores her career in journalism and politics, her role in caring for a child with disabilities, and the societal issues she confronts, such as domestic abuse, terrorism, and political corruption. However, the story takes an intriguing turn as it shifts to Belinda's adventures in the afterlife.

Author Gwen Chavarria has crafted a truly unique work like nothing else I’ve read this year. With a fast-paced narrative style, witty dialogue, and dry humor, the novel explores what comes next after our earthly existence in a highly entertaining fashion. It challenges preconceived notions about the afterlife, offering a transcendent coming-of-age tale that will resonate with readers of various religious backgrounds as you get to know Belinda in ways you never imagined you would. And, whether you believe in the religious concepts behind it or not, the story is a wild ride with lots of memorable character moments, compelling dialogue, and plenty of imaginative twists. Overall, I would certainly recommend Notes on the Next Life as a captivating exploration of the unknown, making it a riveting read for those with both doubts and curiosity about the afterlife.