The Regrets

Little, Brown. Feb. 2020. 304p. ISBN 9780316516167. $27. F
On page one of Bonnaffons’s wildly imaginative debut novel (following an acclaimed story collection, The Wrong Heaven), the demise of 26-year-old Thomas Barrett goes seriously awry when his Angel of Death, sent to fetch him, realizes she’s made a terrible mistake. Thomas finds himself insufficiently dead and facing the Officer of the afterlife, who explains that Thomas must return to Earth for three months in his former body while corrections are made. Thomas is given a list of rules he is encouraged to follow in order to avoid regrets, with sexual contact especially discouraged. So of course Thomas finds himself irresistibly attracted to Rachel, a beautiful, quirky librarian he meets at a bus stop. They embark on a passionate, obsessive relationship that presents extraordinary challenges when Thomas slips into invisibility, body part by body part. Enter Mark, Rachel’s old college boyfriend, who is literally caught between Rachel and her ghost lover.
VERDICT Bonnaffons raises many provocative questions about human relationships in the 21st century, particularly the urgent search for intimacy that ironically is so often sabotaged by endless casual encounters. Spicy hot, impish, and not without its moments of poignancy and, yes, regrets. [See Prepub Alert, 8/5/19.]

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