Heaven Can't Wait - Eli Easton
4.5 Stars

So yeah. We all know how I feel about Eli Easton. I jumped at the chance to read and review this short tale from Dreamspinner’s Daily Dose Mended collection. And as always, I’m very glad I did. This story is vaguely reminiscent of her earliest genre story, Before I Wake, published under Torquere Press (which, if you haven’t read, you really need to), and much like this tale, she again has utilised her gargantuan imagination to plot a beautiful, heartfelt story, steeped in the supernatural.

Now, while some readers might not appreciate starting a story with the death of an MC, Brian, Easton’s wicked way with the written word lends a serenity to the story that has rarely been explored, leading me to compare this type of writing choice to stories such as The Lovely Bones. There is no pain or regret from this event, rather a peace flowing through our protagonist as he sets on a journey to redeem himself and help some of the people he overlooked in life. One of those people was Kevin, his best friend’s roommate, a struggling young gay man subject to bullying. From beyond the grave, Brian starts to see the world in a new, heavenly light. I very much enjoyed Brian’s journey, from ignorant jock to understanding friend. His part-time narrative helped propel the story forward in a wonderful way that had me frantically flipping pages until the final climax of this fantastic, metaphysical story.

Kevin and Chuck made the story all that more heart-rending, filling the walls of this brilliantly conceived world with romance, acceptance and a gentle resolve that left me feeling a great deal warmer and fuzzier than before. Their burgeoning romance not only served to set the boys on a path toward salvation, wrapped in each other’s arms, but also to help Brian learn his life’s lessons, just in the nick of time.

The story was wonderfully written, paced perfectly and truly added another string to Easton’s already prolific bow. I was not let down by this offering one bit, and though it was perhaps not my favourite of her stories, it was still blindingly packed with everything a good story should be; romance, realisation, moral, convincing dialogue, perfect shared narratives. It was quite tantalising to read and for that, I have added this as a permanent fixture on my bookshelf.

The ending threw me for a loop in the best possible way. It took until that final chapter to realize the point of this story. It was not a typical male-male romance, but more a voyage of discovery for Brian, and this take on the tale was very cleverly done. It was hidden in perhaps one line near the end of the story what the entire story had really been about. It was never about Chuck or Kevin; it was always about Brian, his soul, and teaching him what he would need to progress as a better person in the next life. That was a miraculous discovery. Though the line that revealed this motive was not something I would have liked to have read, a line suggesting the fate of one of the other MC’s (which, earlier in the story we were told was unknown due to free will – possible plot hole?), it allowed the story to stand up and reveal its purpose, cleverly disguised in a romantic coming together of two lost boys in a college dorm room.

This story made me ache, made me smile and made me root for our non-corporeal protagonist as he fought to redeem his bad deeds in life. A really powerful punch in the Mended anthology, I recommend this read to everyone who a) has enjoyed Eli Easton’s previous work; b) enjoys a supernatural/fantasy tinge to their stories; and c) has a heart. Four and a half heavenly stars for this latest masterpiece from one of my favourite genre authors.