Review: Greetings From the Flipside

Hope Landon has had a hard time. When she was a little girl, her father disappeared mysteriously; when she was a teenager, her unique mother left her wondering if it was possible to drop dead from cringing too often. As an adult, she’s been stuck in the nothing-town Poughkeepsie. And now, just when she thinks she’s about to escape her life, her fiance jilts her on her wedding day.

Then somebody steals her car. There’s a hospital involved soon enough.

And Hope is about ready to give up on hope.

Greetings From the Flipside is the second collaboration between Rene Gutteridge and Cheryl McKay. I read their novel Never the Bride a few years ago and loved it. So as soon as I heard about Greetings From the Flipside, I wanted to read it.

There’s a lot of humor in this novel, as I had hoped; Hope is an entertaining narrator, and there are many funny moments. At the same time, an undercurrent of seriousness flows through the story. The characters seem, most of them, to be struggling.

Greetings From the Flipside has an unconventional structure: The beginning and ending chapters are in the third-person past tense, but the majority of the chapters only begin that way; then they flip to first-person present tense.

Here I am going to plunge into what I believe, after looking at the reviews, is the most controversial part of the book. I think the spoilers are light, but those who want to be spoiler-free should probably skip to the end of the review. Now, here we go:

Hope spends the majority of the book in a coma, and the third-person narrative at the chapters’ beginning takes place in what we call the real world, and the first-person narrative is the dream-world of Hope’s coma. Briefly, the main character spends most of the story unconscious. Some people disliked this.

I think it worked, and for several reasons. Due to the medical fact that comatose people can have some awareness of what is happening around them – and perhaps also to the suggestion of another realm – the two worlds do interact. The same drama plays out in each of them. Hope’s adventures, in one sense, never happened, but the central question of the story – Will she come back? – was answered in them.

Another reason it worked is that the authors made it fun. Sometimes it was funny to see the real world breaking into Hope’s dreams; sometimes it had the fun of a mystery. (I knew those random letters added up to something.) I came to look for any cross between the real world and the coma-world; their overlap fascinated me.

The novel’s overall theme is one of hope: Jake holding onto hope, though he sometimes doubted, and Hope ready to bid a snarky good-bye to hope, although she had, deep down, a scrap she couldn’t let go. True and false hope both take their turns on the stage.

Greetings From the Flipside executes a unique concept with deftness, all the while mixing its serious questions with humor. The style is engaging, the writing is skillful, and the characters are sympathetic – altogether an original and compelling romance.