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The Nearly Departed

We've seen dearly departed narrators in film or on television. (Remember Sunset Boulevard and Ghost and Six Feet Under?) Enjoy these novels that come to us with a disembodied point of view.

Cooper, J. California
Family
In life, Clora was unable to save her family from the tragedy of slavery. Escaping slavery through suicide, she is able to watch over her children and grandchildren, as slavery is replaced with Jim Crow and racism.
 
Davis, Kathryn
Versailles
Marie Antoinette relates the story of her brief, tumultuous life as she contemplates her history -- after she has made her final journey to the guillotine.
 
Dickens, Charles
A Christmas Carol
The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Future all make an appearance as Ebenezer Scrooge has plenty of otherworldly assistance to get his life in order.
 
Duncan, Glen
Death of an Ordinary Man
Nathan Clark attends his own funeral, and while he can't recall exactly how he died, he realizes that there is some sort of life after death. He begins to observe the people he loved and left behind, and as a bonus, is able to read their thoughts.
 
Machado de Assis
Epitaph of a Small Winner
Hailed as "the best novel you've never read," Braz Cubas is the dead narrator here, looking back on his meaningless life. The small winner? Himself, because he leaves no children to inherit an unhappy world. The big winner? You, because this nineteenth century Brazilian novel is funny, poignant, and unforgettable.
 
Jordan, Neil
Shade
Death by garden shears and burial in a septic tank? Needless to say, Nina Hardy is definitely not resting in peace. She moves effortlessly between the past and the present, trying to find a way to bring solace to those left behind, and to exact some delicious revenge along the way.
 
Sebold, Alice
The Lovely Bones
Fourteen-year-old Suzy Salmon is murdered before the book begins, but that doesn't stop her from narrating the story. As she mourns those who mourn her, she also finds comfort in heaven. Will her murderer be found? How will her family adjust to her loss? And what about the boy she left behind?
 
Smith, Ali
Hotel World
After plummeting to her death in a hotel dumbwaiter (a dare gone terribly wrong), Sara shares the narration of this story with a homeless woman, a traveling journalist, her sister, and others whose lives intersect at the Global Hotel.
 

Updated: August 24th, 2009