cover image The Extra Large Medium

The Extra Large Medium

Helen Slavin, . . Black Cat, $14 (229pp) ISBN 978-0-8021-7032-3

Annie Colville sees dead people, and in British television and scriptwriter Slavin's debut, the dead wear chocolate brown while inhabiting the "Waiting Room of Heaven World," which overlaps with the everyday "Living Room World" that the rest of us see. The ghosts reach out to Annie to enlist her in tidying up unfinished—and mundane as often as unconventional—business: which niece should get the Wedgwood teapot, which romantic path a lesbian daughter should follow. Annie also has problems of her own: her husband, Evan Bees, disappeared seven years ago, and though he's assumed dead, Annie hasn't seen him among the cocoa-clad (the countdown to when Annie can have him declared legally dead provides the book's time line); her quest to discover which of her mother's many lovers is her father is leaden with disappointment; and some ghosts prove to be more haunting than others. Annie endears herself to the reader, in part because her gift exhausts her more than it elevates her, and also because she embodies a genuine purity of heart that, in lesser hands, would be cloying. (May)