There Will Be Stars
by Billy Coffey
Thomas Nelson |May 2016
Hardcover: 416 pages
ARC: E-book from Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review.
Bobby Barnes is known by the good citizens of Mattingly, VA as the town drunk. His community feels it’s a matter of time before they scrape Bobby off the pavement or find he has killed an innocent person on one of his drunken high speed road trips. Bobby has that predicted tragic night. As he speeds around the tight mountain curve he is blinded by headlights followed by the unearthly sound of crushing metal and splintering glass. He sinks into a blackness with a curious final thought…there will be stars.
The next morning dawns to Bobby Barnes flopped in the alley outside his service station. Awakening to the sounds of a rat scurrying through garbage near his head, he’s baffled how he could have survived that crash let alone get back home. Thus begins a strange Twilight Zone-like daily loop that begins with Bobby in the alley and ends each night with the horrifying mountain crash.
Bobby ventures out to Timmy’s store for beer where the dim-witted violent Junior picks a fight when Bobby seems to read Junior’s mind. Junior forces the blitzed Bobby to go with him to meet someone. They arrive at Widow Dorothea Cash’s house where he discovers others from his community that he recognizes – Dorothea, Junior, Tommy, Laura Beth, Juliet and George. This disparate group, unlikely to break bread together “before”, are sharing a lively and loving evening meal together. Why are they here…together?
Bobby, known by all as a drunken derelict, upsets Dorothea by his unbidden appearance in her house. Eventually she tells him he is now in Heaven and asks that he call her “Mama”. He learns that in this version of Heaven, Mama Dorothea has direct contact with the Lord through typed letters. With the help of those letters, she guides her flock.
He is told he is now “free” each day without his previous worries for eternity! Every day will start as his last day and every night will end the same as his last night. No exceptions. The group calls each repeat day the “Turn”. Bobby’s first Turn was the hardest, reliving the horrible car crash, but waking the next morning and discovering that all 22 cans of beer he drank the day before were back in the refrigerator made Heaven look pretty sweet!
It’s been a very long time since anyone new arrived in their Heaven and Mama Dorothea knows that Bobby was introduced to the group prematurely. Junior jumped the gun by bringing an unprepared Bobby into their harmonious family setting. As Bobby learns his way around this new “world”, Mama begins to feel her control over her “family” is in jeopardy. He questions every thing; refuses to accept her word as gospel. As he persists in his quest to learn why he is there, others begin to question discrepancies in Mama’s vision. Mama was right to believe that Bobby’s entrance into their “perfect” Heaven brings a much feared imbalance to their way of life.
I started this book on the perfect reading day curled up with a cup of coffee in hand. This story immediately pulled me inside and I read faster and faster holding my breath totally in a zone. Somewhere about half-way I found myself easily distracted, surfacing and hoping the story would move on…
The imagery was interesting and there were several characters that will leave you wondering about after you finish the book. This type of book is not my usual fare so it is hard to rate it against other books like it. In the end I liked it enough to share it with some friends right away.
I found the dialogue had to follow at times as there would be two voices talking at once and it was difficult to discern who was who…In fairness I was reviewing the unfinished book and that may have been corrected in the final edition.
The overall message was excellent and accentuates that man has been given the gift of free will and we have the freedom to turn to the light or turn to the dark. For those readers expecting a heavy dose of religious fervor, not there. However, there’s a lot of meat on the bone for those hoping that second chances are possible.