Psychology and the workings of the mind are normally I subject that I tend to avoid – there are so many people who have come up with so many different theories, that I’m just not sure what to believe. I know I’m nowhere near qualified to make an educated guess in the field of psychology, so I usually just try to steer clear of the whole arena. I was pleasantly surprised, though, when I happened across Passage by Connie Willis. This captivating novel pulled me in to the world of psychology and held me fast as I marveled at the wonder of Dr. Joanna Landers’ experience and kept me guessing to the end.
Dr. Landers is a psychologist who specializes in near-death experiences (NDEs) and begins to work with a neurologist new to the hospital – Dr. Wright – on a research project. While several references to him as “Dr. Right” lead you to believe that romance will be a main thread, it is never more than a vague hint or whisper in the book. They met, even though she tried to avoid him, while the two of them tried to avoid the third NDE researcher, Mr. Mandrake who is convinced that science can never explain NDEs. Drs. Wright and Landers embark on research into the NDE, induced by drugs, but have a difficult time finding research participants who have not already been “tainted” by the descriptions and expectations Mr. Mandrake has already published about NDEs.
Although I already had a base knowledge of the concept of an NDE, there didn’t seem to be an expectation that the reader was entirely in the know, which pleased me. The psychology and medicine behind what the researchers were trying to accomplish was explained, sometimes briefly, but still well enough that I was able to follow along without feeling completely at a loss with the subject of psychology. I found that I was genuinely interested in what the research was explaining, in what the participants were seeing and in how it related to what the researchers were learning – which is a big step for someone who could usually leave the science detail at the door.
This novel was definitely a page turner! I rarely wanted to set it down; although there were a couple of places I had to stop to digest what I had read. The quotations and excerpts from books and real life incidents gave an interesting take to the novel, giving it a sense of honesty that I doubt I would’ve seen had the quotes not been there. Constantly waiting to see what would happen next kept me reading, even though Ms. Willis never seemed to do what I expected or wanted! In the end, I wasn’t satisfied with the ending, but it was that feeling that led me to fall in love with this book. Even though I wasn’t happy with the turnout, I love the way it was written and I know it would not have nearly had the same pull if it had turned out the way I wanted, with every end cleanly tied.
We meet several interesting characters in this book, with none more interesting that Dr. Landers who draws them all together as the center of this little world. I am partial, I think, because we share a first name, but the she is written so well, so roundly that she seems like someone you could have a cup of tea with in the afternoon. She never actually has a romantic interlude, but it does seem likely off and on throughout the book. She is a confident, professional woman who desires only to be respected and taken seriously – which she accomplishes.
Although I would’ve preferred for her to accomplish these feats in a different way, her proud and strong character still makes everyone believe in her before the last page.I highly recommend anyone to read this book, I think there is something in it for everyone. Even if you are not entirely interested in fiction, I think there may even still be a chance that the human side of research might bring you into this book anyway. If you are a fiction reader, I think you will greatly enjoy making friends with Dr. Lander and her associates. If you strictly read romance, this book will probably not appeal because although it does show some romantic tension, it is never flushed out. It is a great summer read, and I happily invite you to add it to your reading list – and to let me know what you think!
Disclosure: This book was borrowed through a book exchange. I have received no compensation for this review. I just love the book!
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