Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Heaven Or Hell by Roni Teson

Heaven or HellTitle: Heaven Or Hell
Author: Roni Teson
Publisher: Balboa Press
Published: July 31, 2012
Format: Paperback
Pages: 319
Source: Received from the
author in exchange for an honest review
Read: December 1-3, 2012
In A Few Words: Ethereal, limbo-like
My Rating: 3 Stars

Goodreads Synopsis:

Following years of living in an alcoholic fog, Joe becomes an upstanding member of society-but only after he experiences a trip through Hell itself. Teresa creates her own Hell in current day Los Angeles where she struggles with her past while trying to raise her teenage son. Am I in Heaven or Hell, Angel wonders, as she floats restlessly from cloud to cloud, finding herself in constant pursuit of an earthly Teresa and not knowing why. Heaven or Hell is a story of tragedy, loss, and a triumphant life-changing resurrection when the lives of Joe, Teresa, and Angel collide in this world and beyond

Melissa's Musings:

To be honest, I'm not quite sure what to make of this book. It's an interesting story, but I don't think that I went into this quite expecting to read about this particular story.

The story focuses on a family that's been broken apart by alcohol abuse and death. Teresa and her sister Angela were in a car accident that killed Angela and injured Teresa. Joe, who was already in the throes of alcoholism due to his wife's cancer, became even more distant, and eventually ended up homeless. Marion, the girls' mother, died shortly after Angela did. So, Teresa was left all alone, save for her Aunt Jessie.

Teresa does relatively well for herself, opening up her own business. But her marriage fails and she is left to raise her son alone.

Teresa is a character who I felt had major control issues. Her quirk is cleaning, for one. She often cleans when she's stressed or upset. There's nothing wrong with that but she seems to take it to a level of obsession, re-cleaning her store after asking one of her employees to do it, and then cleaning smudges off her car handle when she gets in and out. It was just a really odd quirk. And the control seeps over into other areas of her life, and when it does, anger pops up at really unexpected times. There are a few instances in the book where Teresa wants to slap her son JJ for things he says or does, but these aren't really bad things, like trying to joke around with his grandpa. The anger and wanting to slap him felt really sudden and just out of place for her character.

Contrasted with Teresa's anger, there's Joe's seemingly infinite patience in trying to resolve  his situation and make things better with his girls. Joe is portrayed as the ultimate saint who has helped many people suffering on the streets with alcohol and drug problems like he once did. I was disappointed in the fact that Joe's incidences of helping were so overplayed in the book. It felt like he was let off the hook for abandoning his family since he did all of these other great deeds, and I just don't think that's right. In this sense I can truly see where Teresa's anger is warranted because I felt the same thing as a reader. I think he got off too easily. Yes, he did apologize and he did try to make things right, but it just felt like too little too late.

The one thing that I think could have been improved about Joe's character was the name. As far as I can understand, though I may have misinterpreted, the character's given name is Juan. At some point through his experiences, he starts to go by Joe, but some people continuously refer to him as Juan. All throughout the book people kept saying things like "Joe, or Juan or whatever you call yourself now..." I think it would have made things a lot easier if there had been some sort of definitive statement like "I used to go by Juan, but now I go by Joe since I've changed my ways" and then just had everyone call him Joe after that. The other characters not knowing how to address him made these scenes flounder a bit.

The story definitely has elements that will make you think . There are scenes where Joe is going through his own personal hell complete with being stuck in a pit and floundered after by zombie like creatures that are grasping at him through the muck. You're left to wonder, was any of that real, or was it just some sort of detoxing hallucination? There's also the contrast to this hell, with Angela's character being stuck in limbo in the clouds after she refuses to leave Teresa when she dies. Angela's character is sweet, but also very mature after having been stuck in limbo after so long.

The story definitely prompts thought on what really happens when people pass away. The author gives the impression that the next chapter after life on earth, whatever that may entail, is closer to us then we all might think, rather than being miles and miles away.

There are religious elements to the book but they are kept simple and don't  go into any great detail, which I truly appreciated.


MissKimberlyStardust said...

This one sounds like a good read. I'm glad that you mentioned while there are religious elements to the book they aren't detailed.
Great review!
-Kimberly @ Turning the Pages

Melissas Midnight Musings said...

Thanks Kimberly!