Afterlives (Pierce) - Discussion Questions

Discussion Questions
We'll add publisher questions if and when they're available; in the meantime, use our LitLovers talking points to help start a discussion for The Afterlives … then take off on your own:

1. After his near brush with death (or his brush with near death?) Jim Byrd confesses to Annie that "I feel like maybe I've had a brain injury and didn't realize it." What does he mean? What's out whack? Do you begin to question Jim's perception of reality?

2. Jim is concerned that, even though technically dead, he has no memory of the other side: "No lights, no tunnels, no angels." Let's get down to the personal: What do you expect or hope to see on the "other side"? Have you had, or do you know of anyone who has had, a near death experience? How have they described it? Have you read Heaven Is for Real?

3. How do you describe Jim? Various readers say they found him irritating or not terribly engaging. Others found him funny and delightfully inquisitive. Where do you stand? Does the author bring him to life for you? What about Annie?

4. How would you describe Jim's religious beliefs at the beginning of the novel? After his heart attack, he sets off on a quest to find out what happens after death. With the HeartNet—literally the *power* of life and death—in his pocket, would a stronger traditional belief in the Judeo-Christian God have eased his heart (yep, pun intended)? This is a personal and highly subjective question, friends.

5. Describe Jim's hometown of Shula, N.C. Do you find it funny, with its hologram chickens …or slightly appalling, with its "boutique virus" …or both …or neither?

6. What is Sally Zinker's "daisy theory"? Can you explain it? Does it explain the strange occurrences Byrd experiences? It challenges Jim's concept of reality; does it challenge yours?

7. What role do the stories of Shula's previous residents play in the novel? Why does the author set them in the present tense? Which were your favorites?

8. (Follow-up to Question 7) What about Clara Lennox? In what way is her life a counterpoint to Jim's? A number of readers feel her story was actually more interesting than Jim and Annie's. What do you think?

9. Some reviewers (more than some) have found the book overlong, even tedious. Others say it took time but that eventually they were pulled in—all the way in. How did you experience reading Afterlives?

10. In a Vanity Fair interview, author Thomas Pierce said that most of us stay sane by trying "to avoid any thought of our own impermanence." Why don't Jim and Annie do likewise? What drives them in their quest?

11. Pierce is also interested in exploring the boundaries of technology. One of the questions posed in The Afterlives is the degree to which technology can hurt us as well as help us—holograms and AI, for example. How will we recognize the dangers, and at what point will we be able to turn back?

12. Ultimately, what do Jim and Annie come to understand about life and death? Do those two states have clear-cut boundaries? Or is everything truly more complicated than most of us believe?

13. In a book about matters of life and death, much has been made about the humor. What in particular did you find funny?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online and off, with attribution. Thanks.)

top of page (summary)

Site by BOOM Boom Supercreative

LitLovers © 2020