The Life and Death Parade may sound like the title of a best-selling Emo album from the early 2000’s, but it is far more than what it appears. The Bramley family may live in an English castle, but they feel they have lost everything. After losing their son Nikki to a “horrible accident,” his youngest sister, Holiday, has fallen into strange behaviors, Lady Bramley has given up all but holing herself up in her bedroom, Lord Bramley is keeping a stiff upper lip, and their other son Macklin often overreacts about his car when he feels haunted or afraid. There’s also our narrator Kitty, Nikki’s girlfriend, who has lived with the family since her mother (their former servant) passed away. Kitty is doing all she can to cope with both the loss of NIkki and feeling as if at any moment the Bramley’s will kick her out. Nikki died shortly after visiting a psychic who told him he had no future, though no one seems to know what happened. Kitty, armed with a distinct attempt to never believe any of the spiritual practice her mother taught her, strikes out on her own to find the psychic who she believes set Nikki down the wrong path. Instead, she comes across an attractive performer named Roan. Roan has an air of mystery about him and claims to fake seances for the right price. He is also a member of the Life and Death Parade. This group uses their talents to make money, but some may actually be able to connect in to magic and the spiritual world. Roan offers to do a seance to calm the minds of Holiday and Lady Bramley, but soon finds himself living with the family and telling Kitty that when the Life and Death Parade return, she’ll get the answers she seeks. Kitty suspects he is a charlatan, but soon discovers more about her mother and Roan than she ever thought.
The Life and Death Parade is an easy story to devour. If you have a few hours or a willful case of insomnia, its relatively easy to finish the book in one or two sittings. A word of caution: you may find yourself wishing this was a series. Eliza Wass, the author, writes a story that is both mythic and compelling. It is incredibly hard to put down once you are embroiled in the story.
If you are sensitive to stories of suicide and mental health issues, this may not be the book for you. While we later discover the reason for Nikki’s behaviors, there are parts of the story which can be brutal if you’re not prepared. The book is recommended for fourteen and above, and I agree with that reasoning. The Life and Death Parade has elements that reminded me of The Night Circus and a few other teen books, but Eliza Wass has a distinct voice all her own. One can tell the writer has a distinct experience with grief, and this is confirmed when reading her notes about the book. As someone healing from the loss of a loved one, I found myself connecting to these flashes of grief, but coming away with more understanding than sadness.
The book would make for an excellent Halloween special, not unlike a Ray Bradbury short story. Look for The Life and Death Parade June 26, 2018 from Disney Book Group.