Children’s Book Reviews

Children's Book Reviews: Closing Down Heaven

Publish November 24, 2016

In Lesley Choyce’s Closing Down Heaven, Hunter Callaghan has to die before he learns to live. Hunter never meant to die. At sixteen, he finally discovered mountain biking – an activity that ignited his “spark” – and in a fleeting moment on a dangerous trail, his life ended. But Hunter’s afterlife is unlike any he had imagined. A spiritual guide named Archie provides a vague and inadequate orientation to Heaven, before Hunter is, himself, appointed as a guide to Trinity, a girl from his high school. Hunter is entranced by Trinity, and beginning to enjoy the prospect of eternity with her, when Trinity is sent back. It turns out that Heaven is overcrowded, and since human beliefs are changing, the various committees that govern Heaven have decided to adapt with the times and provide more flexibility in the afterlife. Hunter learns that he, too, must go back, and his return date will precede Trinity’s death – a fact that he firmly believes is not a coincidence. A short novel written entirely in free verse, Closing Down Heaven is a quick read whose format allows more latitude for reader interpretation. Choyce’s fluid, unstructured style mirrors the ethereal nature of his imagined afterlife, where timelines shift and characters move in and out of the living world with ease. Readers will ask the same questions that Hunter does: Is there a god? How do the timelines work? Can Archie be trusted? Choyce steadfastly refuses to provide easy answers, or even to define the parameters of his world. Yet the very loose plot, with its many loose ends, will provoke thought and discussion, making Choyce’s whimsical little novel a nice selection for group settings.

Closing Down Heaven

Lesley Choyce
Red Deer Press
ISBN 13: 978-0-88995-543-1

Karen Doerksen
Karen Doerksen Karen Doerksen lives in Sherwood Park, Alberta with her husband and four children. She works for the Edmonton Public Library, and holds a master’s degree in Library and Information Studies from the University of Alberta.  

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