: : : How the Dead Live

About the Book

Lily Bloom is an aging American transplanted to England who has lost her battle with cancer and lies wasting away at the Royal Ear Hospital. As her two daughters -- lumpy Charlotte, who runs a hugely successful chain of stationery stores called Waste of Paper, and beautiful Natasha, a junkie -- buzz around her and the nurses pump her full of morphine, Lily slides in and out of the present, taking us on a surreal, opinionated, stage-by-stage trip through a lifetime of lust and rage. A career girl in the 1940s, a sexed-up, tippling adulteress in the 1950s and '60s, a divorced PR flack in the 1970s and '80s, Lily presents us with a portrait of America and England over 60 years of riotous and unreal change.
And then, it's over: Lily catches a cab with the Aboriginal wizard Phar Lap Jones, her guide to the shockingly banal world of the dead. It is a dreamlike world, and yet it is familiar: She works again in PR and rediscovers how great smoking is. In this world, her cohabitants include Ride Boy, the son who died at age nine and swears a blue streak, as well as three eyeless, murmuring wraiths -- the Fats -- composed of the pounds, literally the whole selves, she lost and gained over her lifetime. As Lily settles into her nonexistence, the most difficult challenge for this staunchly difficult woman is how to understand that she's dead, and how to leave the rest behind.
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