Death may be the end to life, but every good storyteller knows that the end of one chapter leads to the start of another. So, what happens when life’s story reaches its natural conclusion? 

Leave it to writers to try and fill in the blank: Angels get bored. Ghosts have relationship troubles. And Grim Reapers make fatal errors — literally. Most agents of God are probably super competent, and the average lives lived before achieving enlightenment is no doubt well below the cutoff. But surely not every person kicks the bucket gracefully or pushes up daisies without a little extra help. And what fun would the Afterlife be without a few hilarious missteps?

From divine rulers throwing in the towel to marriage counseling for the dead and guardian angels learning to cope with the mundane habits of humans, these seven humorous explorations of the afterlife will leave you in stitches. 

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What in God’s Name by Simon Rich (Back Bay 2012)

Welcome to Heaven, Inc., the grossly mismanaged corporation in the sky. The founder and CEO (known in some circles as “God”) has been phoning it in. On the rare occasions that he shows up to work, it’s not to resolve wars or end famines, but to Google himself and read what humans have been blogging about him. When God decides to retire, he also decides to destroy Earth. His employees take the news in stride, except for two underpaid angels in the lowly Department of Miracles. In this novel that inspired the hit TBS sitcom Miracle Workers, the angels strike a deal with their boss: He’ll call off his Armageddon, if they can solve their toughest miracle yet. With doomsday fast approaching, they’ll have to move heaven and earth to rescue us all. 

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Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore (Del Rey 2017)

First, we live. Then, we die. And then … we get another try? Ten thousand tries, to be exact. Milo has had 9,995 chances so far and has just five more lives to earn a place in the cosmic soul. If he doesn’t make the cut, oblivion awaits. But all Milo really wants is to fall forever into the arms of Death. Or Suzie, as he calls her. Every journey from cradle to grave offers Milo more pieces of the great cosmic puzzle — if only he can piece them together in time to finally understand what it means to be part of something bigger than infinity. As darkly enchanting as the works of Neil Gaiman and as wisely hilarious as Kurt Vonnegut’s, Michael Poore’s Reincarnation Blues is the story of everything that makes life profound, beautiful, absurd and heartbreaking.

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When Angels Play Poker by Maura O’Leary (Inspiring Voices 2017)

Seasoned con-artist Jimmy has just landed himself in a new high-end senior living complex, but as he prepares for a night out with a woman he met his first week there, he suddenly drops dead of a heart attack and arrives in Heaven. While adjusting to the shock of his new situation, his elder angel guide, Norm, explains that Jimmy is assigned to watch over Maura, a woman he never knew but just so happens to be his brother’s girlfriend. Jimmy quickly realizes Maura’s life is much less exciting than his was on Earth. Luckily for Jimmy, while angels wait for events to unfold on earth, they get to play poker in Heaven … A lighthearted and inspirational story for anyone who’s ever wondered what Angels do all day. (Read our full review here.)

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It’s a Wonderful Death by Sarah J. Schmitt (Sky Pony 2015)

Seventeen-year-old RJ always gets what she wants. So, when her soul is accidentally collected by a distracted Grim Reaper, somebody in the afterlife better figure out a way to send her back from the dead or heads will roll. In her quest for mortality, she becomes a pawn in a power struggle between an overzealous archangel and Death Himself. The tribunal presents her with two options: she can remain in the lobby, where souls wait to be processed, until her original lifeline expires, or she can replay three moments in her life in an effort to make choices that will result in a future deemed worthy of being saved. It sounds like a no-brainer. She’ll take a walk down memory lane. How hard can changing her future be?

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Charleston Green by Stephanie Alexander (Bublish 2020)

Tipsy cannot ignore her nutty friends or her vindictive ex-husband, but as a lifelong reluctant clairvoyant, she’s always avoided dead people. When Tipsy and her three children move into the house on Bennett Street, she realizes some ghosts won’t be ignored. Till death do us part didn’t pan out for Jane and Henry Mott, who’ve haunted the house for nearly a century. Jane believes Henry killed her and then himself, and Henry vehemently denies both accusations. Unfortunately, neither phantom remembers that afternoon in 1923. Tipsy doesn’t know whether to side with Jane, who seems to be hiding something under her southern belle charm, or Henry, a mercurial creative genius. As she struggles to forge a new path for herself and her children, living with ghosts begins to take its toll on her health and possibly her sanity. But Tipsy has a chance to set Jane and Henry free and release the ghosts of her own past in the process. (Read our full review here.)

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The Ferryman Institute by Colin Gigl (Gallery 2016)

Ferryman Charlie Dawson saves dead people — somebody has to convince them to move on to the afterlife, after all. Having never failed a single assignment, he’s acquired a reputation for success that’s as legendary as it is unwanted. It turns out that serving as a Ferryman is causing Charlie to slowly lose his mind. Deemed too valuable by the Ferryman Institute to be let go and too stubborn to just give up in his own right, Charlie had pretty much abandoned all hope of escaping his grim existence until he saves Alice Spiegel. Charlie never planned on stopping Alice from taking her own life — that sort of thing is strictly forbidden by the Institute — but it’s the first time he’s felt right in more than two hundred years. When word of the incident reaches the Institute’s resident internal affairs liaison, Charlie finds he’s in a world of trouble. But Charlie’s not about to lose the only living, breathing person he’s ever saved without a fight.

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Graveyard Shift by Angela Roquet (Violent Siren 2014)

It’s a hard-knock afterlife. Lana Harvey is a reaper, and a lousy one at that. She resides in Limbo City, the modern capital of the collective afterlives, where she likes to stick it to the man (the legendary Grim Reaper himself) by harvesting the bare minimum of souls required of her. She’d much rather be hanging out with Gabriel, her favorite archangel, at Purgatory Lounge. But when a shocking promotion falls in Lana’s lap, she learns something that could unravel the very fabric of Eternity. If this job isn’t completed, there could be some real hell to pay.

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