Moving, magical and haunting-a great story

Death Life of Charlie St. Cloud - Ben Sherwood

Opening Line:"Charlie St. Cloud wasn't the best or brightest boy in Essex County, but he was surely the most promising"

I read this a few years ago but after recently seeing the movie I was reminded of how much I’d liked this story and decided I had to revisit Charlie St Cloud and his little brother Sam. Even though I knew the big reveal this time through I was still able to immerse myself completely in this magical, moving journey from death back to life.

With a story and writing style reminiscent of Nicholas Sparks this is an easy, beautiful and somewhat tear-jerking read that I would recommend to fans of his. There is of course a touching love story here but to me this was more about brothers, letting go of the past and embracing life.
Sherwood also manages to also bring the seaside town of Marblehead Massachusetts to life with quaint and intriguing secondary characters and a unique yachting theme. There were times here when I could actually smell the sea breeze, feel the salt spray on my face and really see his descriptions of clouds and setting suns. So much so that despite the movie being filmed some 50 miles from my (Canadian) back yard I still had the urge to visit New England. I think what I liked most here though was Sherwood’s comforting take on the afterlife; giving us all hope that our departed are with us, all around us and waiting for us.

As a teenager Charlie St. Cloud died in a car accident, brought back after a few minutes by the paramedics his younger brother Sam wasn’t to be so lucky. During those brief moments before Charlie was returned to life he made a promise to his brother that he would never leave him, and he never has. Now 13 years later Charlie is working in a cemetery, he’s still full of guilt over the accident however by some twist of fate he can now see the dead walking amongst the tombstones and every night at sunset he meets Sam in a secret grove where they play baseball together in a Field Of Dreams sort of way. Charlie’s never missed a single sunset with the fear that his brother would fade away if he did, in this way though neither of them has been able to move on. The cemetery almost becomes a character of its own here, no longer feeling like a creepy, sad place but one of magic and adventure.
Tess Carol is about to embark on a solo sailing trip around the world so meeting someone like Charlie is definitely not in her plans. Yet despite his odd habit of disappearing at sunset she can’t help but fall in love, these days he seems to be the only one who really “sees” her. When Tess’s boat is lost in a storm Charlie is faced with the ultimate choice between death and life. In joining the search party he chooses love and a future full of possibilities yet in doing so he’ll also break his promise and risk losing his brother forever.