My Life as a Bench is one of those books that I was drawn to because of the description and also the setting. It sounded unique, but odd. Familiar, but not familiar. I’ve seen plenty of movies where there are ghosts trying to figure out what happened to them, ghosts that go through stages of denial that they have really passed, and ghosts just trying to make their voices heard one more time before they move on. But most of those ghosts can move around.
‘There are so many benches lining the riverside, each and every one tragic in its own way.’
Ren Miller has died aged seventeen and yet her consciousness lives on, inhabiting her memorial bench by the River Thames in London.
Ren longs to be reunited with her boyfriend Gabe, but soon discovers why he has failed to visit. Devastated, she must learn to break through and talk to the living so she can reveal the truth about her tragic end.
Unique, haunting, and compelling, this is a story about love, friendship, a passion for music and what, if anything, remains after we’ve gone.
In My Life as a Bench, Ren (Lauren Miller) is a spirit that is now tied to a memorial bench which her father setup in her honor. The bench being setup is our first experience, and Ren doesn’t like it. I also wasn’t a fan of it, especially with the whining on her behalf, but the story got better from there. Ren is waiting for her boyfriend, Gabe, to come and visit her. She just wants to see him again. She watches endlessly for the buses to come to the park. Her father visits. Strangers read her memorial plaque. She talks to the man in the bench next to hers. And all the while, she just really wants to see Gabe again. Ren died tragically at age 17, and now she can’t believe this is her life (err… afterlife, rather.)
What I liked about this book is that her voice sounded true. I didn’t necessarily like that her young adult voice and lingo had to be explained to Lionel, her bench buddy / neighbor. I did like Lionel, of course, as the voice of an older male and thus acting as a source of wisdom and age in contrast to Ren’s reckless teenage self. But her words sounded authentic, and you could really hear her saying them. I couldn’t always find a connection to her, but her words were well-written.
Another thing I liked was that you weren’t always stuck in the bench. She sifts through memories and parts of her history are revealed (slowly) over the course of the book. To me this was important because as lovely as it sounds to be at a bench on the Thames, a ghost that isn’t traveling about a lot makes for a challenging plot.
Overall I was so-so on the story, but it was good if not predictable. I’d give it 2.5/3 out of 5 for the writing and the general premise. What could make it better? For me, I don’t think it’s the tale itself but rather the format. It seems like it would be a perfect fit for a black box theatrical production, which would help to heighten the emotional peaks and valleys, as well as the tension of the relationships.
Note: Thank you to NetGalley and Nowness Books for this copy in exchange for an honest review. My Life as a Bench is available for pre-order and is scheduled to be released on May 2, 2017.