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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.