THE BOOK: Descriptions of Heaven
PUBLISHED IN: 2016
THE AUTHOR: Randal Eldon Greene
THE EDITOR: Martine Bellen
THE PUBLISHER: Harvard Square Editions
SUMMARY: A linguist, a lake monster, and the looming shadow of death—news of an unknown creature in the New Bedford Lake coincides with news that Natalia’s cancer has returned.
On the shores of the lake in a strange house with many secret doors, Robert and his family must face the fact that Natalia is dying, and there is no hope this time. But they continue on; their son plays by the lakeside, Natalia paints, Robert writes, and all the while the air is thick with dust from a worldwide drought that threatens to come down and coat their little corner of green.
A lament for what is already lost and what is yet to be lost, Descriptions of Heaven leaves only one question to be asked: What’s next?
THE BACK STORY: As with most of my stories, I started with the end—a last line, and I worked my way toward that. At the time I was trying to write a novel that wasn’t going anywhere. One of the elements of this aborted novel was a character dying of a terminal illness. But the book just wasn’t making the kind of progress I wanted.
One night I had a terrible bout of insomnia. Still unable to sleep, I spent much of the next morning lying on a couch, watching a marathon run of some monster-hunting show. In one of the episodes, they were searching for a lake monster. It turns out there are hundreds of lakes across the globe that have supposed lake monsters. While watching this episode the last line came to me. I went downstairs (where my writing desk was located at the time) and wrote the line down. I got some sleep and the next day started working on this new book. I didn’t know at the time if it would be anything more than a writing exercise or maybe even a short story. Instead, it took some of the themes from that now-abandoned novel and built a unique story for itself, becoming Descriptions of Heaven, a little book with a lot of depth.
WHY THIS TITLE? Descriptions of Heaven has three main characters. There’s Robert, the linguist. His wife, Natalia. Then there is their son, Jesse. Natalia is basically an atheist while Robert is an agnostic. Their son knows his mother will die soon and he poses questions for them about what this means, what exactly the afterlife is. Seeking answers to these questions from a stance of human unbelief and doubt direct the narrative flow.
WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: Anyone who likes beautiful rhythms and artistic language will love this book. The narrator, Robert, will also take you on a journey of words, as he reaches for more difficult descriptions and obscure nouns, verbs, and adjectives—only revealing the inadequacy of words to provide the answers he’s seeking. So if you’re a logophile (a lover of words) you’ll be in for a treat.
Fans of contemplative literary fiction are the main audience for this book. Though many others have found Descriptions of Heaven to be a beautiful little novel to turn to when in the mood for a poetic tragedy.
“This is an accomplished work. Greene has addressed a great deal of material in a short space. His story is physically minimal while his prose, and the ideas and situations it conveys, are expansive. Greene does very effective work with very few pages. In the process, he has created a thoughtful and emotional novel that examines with intelligence and compassion the deepest levels of human suffering and loss.” —Colorado Review
“Descriptions of Heaven is an admirable sort of quietly suspenseful literary novel; its prose flows without awkwardness, and heartrending gothic secrets are revealed in due course as the philosophical narrative unfolds.” —Kevin Polman, author of The Extra Key
“From the very first pages, I saw the lives of these characters like a shattering mirror. All those details which make everyday life normal will be torn apart in front of the characters, leaving them unable to do anything but wait for that final dreaded moment and afterwards try to move on.” —eLitere
“Randal Greene masterfully created a character who fights in silence, who faces life with her heart and her feelings out in the open. I loved meeting her, and her last journey seen through her husband’s eyes was beautiful to witness.” —Chocolatenwaffles
“In My Opinion if you like to read books there is no reason you shouldn’t pick up this one. . .It’s short and easy to read, it packs a punch for something so small, and it will touch each and every one of your emotional strings by the time you read the ending.” —Victor G. Espinoza, author of Greyhart
“I loved the author’s prose and his style in general. Greene makes poetry of his prose and commands the page. For that reason alone, it was a joy to read.” —The Underground
“Let yourself get involved, and you may be pulled in by the linguist’s efforts to use the tools of his craft—words—as aids in his search for answers to his son’s (and his own) questions about why Natalia is dying and where she is going.” —IndieReader
“It’s a book that must be read with the desire to see the ordinary transform. Images are poetry in a novelist’s prose. Emotions are felt through metaphors and the scene itself—internal battles that end with short moments of dialogue.” —Cayce Berryman, copy editor and newspaper producer for Gannet (USA Today Network)
“What’s surprised me is how such a short novella has left lasting thoughts. Greene’s use of words has evoked such vivid images and thoughts that I find I’m contemplating life and death myself. An interesting and thought-provoking read.” —happymeerkatreviews
“This work of art is incredibly poetic from beginning to end. Randal Eldon Greene paints his words with every array of colors imaginable.” —Paperback Darling
“With so many hauntingly beautiful lines, and characters that I cared about and became attached to, I felt as if I, too, took this journey, and I’ve been changed along with them. And for me, that’s the ultimate gift that a story could give.” —Unbroken Journal
AUTHOR PROFILE: Randal Eldon holds a degree in English and Anthropology from the University of South Dakota. His short fiction and other writing has appeared in 34thParallel, as|peers, Unbroken Journal, StoryFinds, Monkeybicycle, NPR online and elsewhere. He works full time as a seeing eye human for his blind dog, Missy. Greene lives in Sioux City, Iowa. His typos are tweeted @authorgreene and his website is found at authorgreene.com
AUTHOR COMMENTS: “Descriptions of Heaven is not a religious book. And it’s also not an anti-religious book. It’s just a good story that anyone of any faith can enjoy. Don’t let the title or cover the publisher chose dissuade you or give you false expectations. Sample the book below and see if it’s right for you.
PRICE: paperback 22.95 ; Kindle 9.99