The Life of the World to Come

The Life of the World to Come pivots on one significant moment, which the main character explores from many angles. In Dan Cluchey's debut novel, Leo Brice has just finished the bar exam when his spirited and enigmatic girlfriend ups and leaves in the middle of the night. Being the lawyer--junior advocate for death row inmates--that he is, Brice analyzes and studies that event in the context of his life, and comes to some uncomfortable conclusions. When he meets a spiritual guide--in the form of an inmate he is trying to save--he begins to understand his own life and heartbreak in the larger context of the infinite universe. Brice learns that one person's loss means nothing to the entirety of human experience.

If this sounds like an ambitious interpretation of something as simple as a breakup, it's only because Cluchey manages to attack the subject with broad but beautiful strokes. Brice can be a bit melodramatic, but his suffering becomes a vehicle for the reader's deeper understanding of the workings of the heart and the mind. In a rare moment of clarity, Brice says, "Given two hundred thousand years of humanity, it was wildly unlikely that something so gauzy as romantic sadness would ever come close to registering as my chief hurdle."

A former speech- and op-ed writer, Cluchey crafts his novel as both a love letter to love itself and as a guide to healing when it's gone. --Josh Potter

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