Inspired Book Club – Woke Up in a Strange Place
Woke Up in a Strange Place
By Eric Arvin
Published by Dreamspinner Press
Joe wakes up in a barley field with no clothes, no memories, and no idea how he got there. Before he knows it, he’s off on the last great journey of his life. With his soul guide Baker and a charge to have courage from a mysterious, alluring, and somehow familiar Stranger, Joe sets off through a fantastical changing landscape to confront his past.
The quest is not without challenges. Joe’s past is not always an easy thing to relive, but if he wants to find peace—and reunite with the Stranger he is so strongly drawn to—he must continue on until the end, no matter how tempted he is to stop along the way.
Winner of the 2012 Gaybie for Best Speculative Fiction
About the Author
Eric Arvin resides in the same sleepy Indiana river town where he grew up. He graduated from Hanover College with a Bachelors in History. He has lived, for brief periods, in Italy and Australia. He has survived brain surgery and his own loud-mouthed personal demons. Eric is the author of WOKE UP IN A STRANGE PLACE, THE MINGLED DESTINIES OF CROCODILES & MEN, SUBSURDITY, SIMPLE MEN, and various other sundry and not-so-sundry writings. He intends to live the rest of his days with tongue in cheek and eyes set to roam.
Review by Lori Powell
Woke Up in a Strange Place is possibly the most beautiful book I’ve ever read.
When I chose it I had no idea what it was about. I knew I wanted to read one of Eric Arvin’s books so I looked up what he’d written and was just drawn to the title – I love it. I didn’t read past the first sentence of the blurb – sort of book roulette, I definitely dodged the bullet – so for some reason I had it in my head it was going to be similar to the film Memento. It wasn’t.
Though this is a male/male romance story, it is far from typical. It is about Joe’s search through the next life for his soul mate, before he can find him though he has to confront the many memories and people who shaped his earth life.
Firstly I would say the prose is beautiful, the imagery Eric Arvin creates is amazing. He is a master at writing sentences that make the ever changing, ever shifting landscape of Joe’s story feel real and tangible. The afterlife Eric Arvin composes is purely made up of each human’s beliefs and experiences. ‘Hell’, when Joe comes across it, only exists because the people there believe it is where they should be, it is truly a product of their own beliefs, all it takes to escape is the realisation that they can, they don’t have to be there.
Pg 80 “Well, human beings have always done one thing very well, and that is create their own hells and bask in their own misery. They complain about what they create for themselves; they relish the pain. What they don’t do so well most of the time is find a way out of it.” How true is this?
Imagery continues in this vein, for moments of happiness, regret, the mists of those trapped between worlds while machines support their lives on earth but their souls want to be freed. It is perhaps more than a novel, a message we should understand. We are here, we are now, don’t have regrets. Life isn’t always going to be a bed of roses, sometimes things seem out of control; but we are the only ones who can make our lives what we want them to be. It may sound trite but life is for living and reading this novel makes you want to make the most of every second in the way that is right for you. Loudly, quietly, alone, with friends, a partner, family or a party.
So we follow Joe through his journey into the after life, are with him as he experiences all the earthly memories he has forgotten,both those that seemed significant to him and those that didn’t. It brings forward the realisation that our actions and words can affect others, even when they seem insignificant to us. We are with Joe as he is eventually reunited with his soul mate. It truly is a love story.
I usually try not to contain spoilers when I write reviews – the blurb (if you read it) usually gives you enough of the story to tantalise – but with this book I found it almost impossible to write without spoilers. I am sure many others will and have reviewed this story far more succinctly than I, I know I’m gushing – I’m embarrassed even as I type – but honestly it is the most beautiful story. Beautiful. I will most definitely be re-reading it.