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There Will Be Stars


There Will Be Stars

Bobby Barnes is the town drunk. He might be even worse than a drunk (no, wait, he was cleared of that after Zach and Allie returned from being lost in the Dark Wood). His wife has left him, and he owns an auto repair shop where he rarely does any work. But the shop does have a refrigerator (where he stashes the beer) and a front counter (under which he keeps a bottle of bourbon).

One thing Bobby does have, though, is a routine. Every day he drinks. And every night he staggers out to his old Dodge truck, opens the door, gets in and starts the ignition. With his two young sons, Mark and Matthew, in the vehicle with him. And the trio drives out of town, speeding around the curves and bends of the dark and deserted country roads. This is their nightly pattern.

Tonight, they crank the volume on the radio to better hear AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.” The boys fuss at each other, and Bobby chides them gently as he polishes off the last of his beer, tossing the can into the back of the truck. The truck speeds along the winding forest road, autumnal trees hurtling past it, as well as the occasional deer whose eyes glow in the headlights. Other than Bobby, the boys and the deer, there’s nothing alive on that road --- no cars, no passengers.

"Similarly, Coffey’s new world is not for the timid, but it is indeed wondrous. Gather up your courage and jump into Bobby Barnes’ new life and 'heaven.'"

But hasn’t this happened before? With a shiver, Bobby asks the boys if they shouldn’t do something different, to go to the 7-11 and get a scratch-off ticket to play the lottery. Mark tells him he won’t. And Mark is right. Instead of turning right towards the store, Bobby turns left and heads higher up into the mountains. He enters a curve, finds it empty, and barrels on around the next one. As he glances at his son, his words are silenced by the fear on the child’s face. Bobby turns back to the road and sees headlights. Then metal screeches, glass shatters, and he and the boys fly forward.

However, Bobby doesn’t wake up in the hospital, or the morgue. He finds himself on the ground, in the alley behind his auto shop, in pain. Could he have drunk some bad liquor? He crawls to stand and feels again the déjà vu, the thought that all of this has happened before. He lurches into his shop (everything is the same there) and makes it to the bathroom, where he sees in the mirror both his world-weary eyes and a bruised and swollen cheek. But he has no idea how the injury got there.

Before Bobby’s day is over, though, he’s going to run into many more things that are a mystery. As he and the boys drive through Mattingly, he begins to sense what and whom he’s going to see….before they come into view. He nearly gets himself beaten and strangled by Junior, the man with a temper who everyone tries to avoid, when he speaks Junior’s words before the man can get them out of his mouth. Junior forces Bobby to the Widow Cash’s, where she and several other townspeople are sitting down to lunch, and they tell Bobby he’s dead. They’re all dead, actually, and they’re in heaven.

But heaven doesn’t seem quite like Bobby imagined it would (that is, if he’d spent much time thinking about it lately). There are injuries that won’t heal. Weird letters from God placed in the widow’s mailbox. The same day repeating itself over and over and over. And there is cruelty, wickedness and ugliness. What kind of God would design a heaven like this?

Bobby isn’t too sure about that or anything else. What he’s beginning to notice is that this “heaven” contains some allure, but also horrors --- people who are becoming either more repellent or captivating. There’s just not a lot of love. There’s a choice ahead for Bobby, though --- one he never would’ve imagined.

With THERE WILL BE STARS, Billy Coffey draws us back to the town and people of Mattingly, the small Southern place his readers know well. There is beauty here, but also startling cruelties and casual evil. As I read the book, I was reminded of lines uttered by the character “Q” in an old episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”: “You are about to move into areas of the galaxy containing wonders more incredible than you can possibly imagine --- and terrors to freeze your soul…. It’s not safe out here. It’s wondrous…but it’s not for the timid.” Similarly, Coffey’s new world is not for the timid, but it is indeed wondrous. Gather up your courage and jump into Bobby Barnes’ new life and “heaven.” Just keep the lights on while you read!

Reviewed by Melanie Reynolds on May 27, 2016

There Will Be Stars
by Billy Coffey

  • Publication Date: May 3, 2016
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson
  • ISBN-10: 0718026829
  • ISBN-13: 9780718026820