Books and movies about what happens immediately after death have been popular for a long time. The story might be about a confused soul wandering among the living while trying to figure out what happens next, about angels who guide the newly dead across the River Jordan, or about someone having one last chance to defend his life before his final destination is determined. In I Never Saw Paris, Harry Freund wonders what might happen if a several people killed in the same accident were to face that final judgment together.
When four New Yorkers waiting on the sidewalk to cross the street are crushed by a car whose driver has been struck by a fatal heart attack, all five of the newly dead find themselves face-to-face with Malakh, an angel who is there to prepare them for the court appearance that will decide their fate. Malakh requires each to practice for that court date by explaining his life in front of the others and he keeps them relatively honest by prodding them in the right direction with scenes from their past that usually show them at their worst.
But Malakh is in for a surprise when the little group bonds so tightly that his job becomes a bit of a challenge. Suddenly the Holocaust survivor, the young man who made a nice living as a gay prostitute, the elderly black woman who knows the Bible almost by heart, the rich socialite whose only purpose in life was to shop at the best stores, and the powerful businessman who cheated on his wife with a vengeance realize that they are all in this together.
Harry Freund makes the point that life is long enough for most people to slip now and then by doing things that they are ashamed of for the rest of their lives. But some slip more often, and in more serious ways, than others. I Never Saw Paris is a hopeful look about what might happen when it comes time to explain ourselves. This is one of those rare books that I enjoyed despite not really liking a single character in the story, human or angel. That is an accomplishment in itself.
Rated at: 3.5