Beyond our wildest imaginations, other worlds and dimensions exist that are vastly different than ours. These worlds beyond both fascinate and frighten us, but more importantly, they have the potential to bring a great good we never could have envisioned.
In this intriguing collection of stories that explores the ramifications of encounters with beings from the beyond, the appearance of a bewildering and elusive visitor to an eleven-year-old boy brings an unusual gift that turns his entire town inside out. Two young siblings-whose parents have just left them for a year with their callous aunt and uncle-soon discover they have an angry ghost to contend with as well. As a family moves into a strange house, they find the house a lot stranger than they bargained for. When a boy finds his school filled with the ghosts of fellow students and teachers, he is mystified when he sees these same people still alive in the flesh.
From Beyond to Here is a compilation of stories for young fans of the supernatural sure to entertain and raise questions about intriguing parallel worlds.
Sample story: The Ghost of Swiss Castle
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Two book reviews:
Marr’s collection comprises six short stories aimed at young readers interested in aliens and ghosts (which in turn comprises just about all young readers, one would imagine).
Marr (Born in the Darkest Time of the Year, 2004, etc.) has done a good job depicting the troubles and traumas that preteens and teenagers face and showing how they might be able to deal with life’s challenges. In “The Ghost of Swiss Castle,” Paul and Mabel Honeysuckle are, like all of Marr’s protagonists, plucky, siblings who eventually, and at great risk, bring comfort to the ghost of mistreated little Malcolm, who couldn’t let go of his
hatred. Murray Hawkins (“Haunted for a Time”) is his own worst enemy. Following in his parents’ footsteps, Murray is a Scrooge-in-training. This young lad will not freely lend his comic books but is happy to rent them out for a decent return on his investment. His salvation comes in the form of his doppelganger, an impish version of Murray, who gets
him in trouble and thwarts his agenda whenever possible, but drives him to the realization that good deeds can feel as good as hard cash, winning him the same happy salvation that old Ebenezer won. “The Buyer of Hearts” is perhaps the most poetic of the stories, and it’s rife with wraiths. Bruce Denton’s father has run out on him and his mother. He’s
hurting badly but then discovers that practically all of his schoolmates also have their secret heartaches. Some force, some cabal, is going around buying up hearts, and soon, everyone in Bruce’s school is eager to cash in and in turn become empty, ghostly. Why would you sell your heart? Because then you would not feel, which means you would not
ache so. But life demands more from us, and eventually, the scheme fails and people one by one get their hearts back. Marr delights in the heart as metaphor, e.g., “ ‘Besides…when you sold your heart,’ said Sylvie, ‘I don’t think your heart was really in it.’ ” Marr is not just a grown-up, but a monk, so it is not surprising that his kids’ speech is sometimes
just a little off. But he does feel for kids who suffer the death of a sibling or the abandonment of divorce or just the general confusion of trying to grow up or of being afraid to grow up. There are morals to these stories, but they don’t hit the reader over the head.
Marr is that wise and often witty uncle that every young person needs.
Blueink Starred Review:
Although the third short story collection from Benedictine monk Andrew Marr (after Born in the Darkest Time of Year and Creatures We Dream of Knowing) is categorized as juvenile fiction, the six stories included within will resonate just as powerfully – if not more so – with adult readers.
Infusing Christian precepts with science fiction and fantasy-powered plots, these stories are not only well written, they’re thematically profound. “Merendael’s Gift,” for example, revolves around an 11-year old boy named Eddie who sees a shimmering apparition that telepathically tells him that it wants to give him its “Gift.” The flickering being, named Merendael, seems friendly and completely harmless, but when other children see the strange creature, they become filled with fear, and soon the entire town devolves into violent chaos as the populace creates militias to hunt down and kill the alien visitor.
Eddie, who at first denies ever seeing Merendael, eventually decides to try to save the benevolent creature from the fearful – and prejudiced – masses. The story’s bombshell of a conclusion was ripe for moralization but Marr skillfully circumnavigates this potential pitfall by using sublime subtlety throughout. At one point, when frenzied citizens surround town hall, Marr brilliantly sneaks in the story’s overriding message amidst the pandemonium. A man wearing a clerical collar is holding a sign that reads: “I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me. Matt. 25:35.”
Other compelling stories include: “The Ghost of Swiss Castle,” about two kids attempting to free the ghost of a young boy – and those whose negligence killed him; and “Haunted for a Time,” which revolves around a self-centered boy and a creepy life lesson involving atonement.
Reading this seamless blend of science fiction and paranormal fantasy with Christian mysticism is not only wildly entertaining, it is deeply edifying – literary manna for the soul. Thomas Merton meets Algernon Blackwood.