Best of 2001

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at
Fri Jan 18 17:10:39 EST 2002

On Fri, 18 Jan 2002 02:02:33 +1100, Gross Family wrote:

>OK, here's the question I want to ask you. Important spoilers coming.

>Did you think that the implication was that Joanne's consciousness only
>continued until she managed to get the message across to Richard--that her
>experience after death followed the same timeline of what was happening to
>her friends in the living world--or do you think the implication is that her
>consciousness goes on after that, too?

My interpretation was that all of the events on the ship--the whole time
she's trying to find a way out, and the exits gradually disappear or are
blocked--were what happened simultaneously with Richard trying to contact
her, and that the very end indicated that she'd entered some kind of

> I was discussing this with a friend,
>and we both felt confused by the fact that time seems to flow at a different
>rate for Joanna after her death and the living world, so that the reader
>can't be sure that her message gets across at the same time as Richard
>'gets' it. Also, we both felt that it was unclear whether Joanna's
>consciousness continues after she gets the message across, but we also both
>felt that Willis was leaving that possibility open--refusing to give a
>definitive answer, but sort of saying 'maybe', and also at the same time
>saying, 'yes, but it's totally different from anything you--or Joanna
>herself--could imagine." Do you (or Melissa, or anyone else who's read the
>book) agree?

I think the ambiguity exists to allow different readers, with different
belief systems, to interpret it any way they feel most comfortable.  I
especially think Willis wasn't trying to say, definitively, "this is what
happens after you die."  It's open-ended for a reason.  I remember that the
first time I read it, I thought it was a sad ending; then I re-read the
final section and realized it was a happy ending.  There are no solid

>The other thing we were confused by is the fact that Willis has that
>wonderful, poignant, heartbreaking description of Joanna's memories
>disappearing one by one, but the next thing you know, she still has those
>memories! What did you make of that?

Going from my theory that yes, Joanna's existence continues after death, I
thought of it as how she passes into that afterlife existence.  The
implication of the NDE in _Passage_ is that death is a struggle even if
you're not conscious--that people (maybe only certain people) won't let go
of life easily.  The shutting-down effect, the losing one's memories, struck
me as a method for essentially prying Joanna's fingers off the ledge of
life, which allows her to fall into the next one.

I didn't love _Passage_ as much as I loved Willis's other books, mainly
because I'm not really interested in NDE's (make that actively annoyed by
them, but that's irrelevant to this discussion) and because in several
places I was aware of phrases and descriptions that had been recycled from
her other books.  It kept me from really falling into it.  Still a good
book, and one I'll re-read eventually.

Melissa Proffitt
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