Richard Grant,
Tex and Molly in the Afterlife
(Avon, 1996)

"The Goddess helps," says Molly, one of the eponymous heroes of Richard Grant's Tex and Molly in the Afterlife, "and the Goddess nurtures. And sometimes the Goddess bites you on the ass. We all have our parts to play in the great drama."

That pretty much sums it up -- and you don't get much more ass-bitten than these two -- but let me back up.

Tex and Molly are a pair of aging hippies with comfortable happy existence in Dublin, Maine, a tiny coastal town fronting Cold Bay. They live on a houseboat, The Linear Bee, participate with the Cold Bay Street Players street theater, and in general, enjoy their lives together. Then they die.

But death is not quite what they expected. (They consult Kubler-Ross, but the famous stages of death and dying seem rather irrelevant when one is already dead.) After each has an encounter with an ancient deity, they find themselves back on the The Linear Bee overseeing and orchestrating the drama that follows. Botanists, bears, wolves, witches, dryads and wannabe eco-terrorists, among other assorted inhabitants of Dublin, mix it up in a plot involving genetically engineered spruce trees at a local timber research facility, and what a long strange trip it is.

Grant shifts and shuffles plots and characters and even time, as Tex and Molly's afterlife abilities allow them to follow the events and even take side trips to the Underworld. The various threads come together on Midsummer Night in an explosive resolution which is funny, compelling and convincing. Grant deftly mixes humor, pop culture references and cultural commentary without mounting an authorial soapbox, and the nearly 500 pages seem to fly by.

His characters are startling in their clarity: Tex and Molly, their young and idealistic friend Ludi, Gene Deere, the equally idealistic botanist, Pippa Rede, the "welfare witch," Wild Jag Eckhart, the security guard with a penchant for producing napalm, Beale the homeless dryad, Sefyn Hunter, the administrative assistant with the green thumb, and myriad others, major and minor. These aren't just a handful of eccentric characters tossed into a fertile setting; these are people we have all encountered at some point or other. This close identification assists in the necessary suspension of disbelief, making it seem natural.

That would certainly meet with Tex and Molly's approval. For a natural high that's hard to beat, join Tex and Molly in the Afterlife.

[ by Donna Scanlon ]

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