Passage

Connie Willis, Author Bantam Books $23.95 (608p) ISBN 978-0-553-11124-8
In a departure from her usual historical theme, Willis (Miracle and Other Christmas Stories) pries open the door at the end of the tunnel of Near Death Experience (NDE) while holding firmly to her endearing brand of exasperated humor. Dr. Joanna Lander, a psychologist separating the truth from the expected in NDEs, is talked into working with Dr. Richard Wright (pun intended), a neurologist testing his theory that NDEs are a survival mechanism by simulating them with psychoactive drugs. When navigating the maze of the hospital in which the cafeteria is never open, dodging Mr. Mandrake who writes popular books on NDEs and fabricates most of his accounts and finding uncorrupted participants for their experiments becomes too difficult, Joanna herself goes under. What she finds on the Other Side almost drives her and Richard apart, while solving the mystery of what it means almost drives her mad. Joanna holds nothing back as she searches her mind and her experience; readers will be able to puzzle out the answers just as she does. That this work is less tightly packed than most of Willis's novels somewhat undercuts the tension. Even so, the plot twists, the casual wit and the enjoyable characters will satisfy fans. The shocking occurrence 100 pages from the end is a good indication of Willis's power as a writer. (May 1)
Reviewed on: 05/01/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
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