The Edge of Over There by Shawn Smucker is an extraordinary work, and I don’t use “extraordinary” lightly. It is part road trip, part dystopia, part quest, part Pilgrim’s Progress, part classic-story-of good-versus-evil, part young adult. Even more surprising, it is a sequel that surpasses its predecessor, and its predecessor,The Day the Angels Fell, was excellent.
This new novel doesn’t pick up where The Day the Angels Fell left off. The heroes of the previous story are, for one thing, is very different places – Sam is an old man beset with physical problems and Abra has died, leaving Sam a sword and an atlas. Sam is followed one day by a man, whom Sam suspects wants the sword and the atlas. That assumption turns out to be wrong; what the man wants is to tell Sam a story, the story of what happened at the edge of Over There, a story that involves Abra after she and Sam drifted apart.
The story begins in Deen, the valley town Abra and Sam grew up in, but it quickly moves to New Orleans. A five-year-old child is dying, her 10-year-old brother is hiding in a closet, and the child’s father is leaving with his daughter to go to the one place she has a chance to live. He has to bring a plant with him and establish it in a building. Or so he’s told by his doctor, a mysterious woman. The journey begins in a well-known New Orleans landmark – St. Louis Cemetery #1, and specifically the aboveground tomb of voodoo priestess Marie Laveau.
Years later, Abra will make the same journey. With her will be the now-18-year-old brother, Leo Jardine, and an acquaintance named Beatrice. Abra knows she is charged with killing a particular tree – the Tree of Life, the one mentioned in the Book of Genesis that God warned Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit of. Leo wants to find his sister. Beatrice doesn’t seem to have a purpose, but, with good reason, we, and Abra, suspect Beatrice is up to no good, and we turn out to be right. The three travel through the tomb and eventually find themselves in a forest, a forest that gradually becomes a city. A city unlike any they’ve ever known, a city where a great evil is unfolding.
In addition to the novel The Day the Angels Fell, Smucker has published three non-fiction works – My Amish Roots, Building a Life Out of Words, and Refuse to Drown. He and his family live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
The Edge of Over There keeps the reader reading. It’s an enthralling story, filled with bravery and courage in the face of deadly danger and undisguised evil. It is a story that inspires, and I suspect it will inspire you, your children, and your grandchildren.
Top photograph by Alexandr Bormotin via . Used with permission.