No one in Mattingly ever believed Bobby Barnes would live to see old age. Drink would either rot Bobby from the inside out or dull his senses just enough to send his truck off the mountain on one of his nightly rides. Although Bobby believes such an end possible—and even likely—it doesn’t stop him from taking his twin sons Matthew and Mark into the mountains one Saturday night. A sharp curve, blinding headlights, metal on metal, his sons’ screams. Bobby’s final thought as he sinks into blackness is a curious one—there will be stars.
Yet it is not death that greets him beyond the veil. Instead, he returns to the day he has just lived and finds he is not alone in this strange new world. Six others are trapped there with him.
Bobby soon discovers that rather than the place of peace he had been led to believe he was in, it’s actually a place of secrets and hidden dangers. Along with three others, he seeks to escape, even as the world around him begins to crumble. The escape will lead some to greater life, others to endless death . . . and Bobby Barnes to understand the deepest nature of love.

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I received this book as an ARC from Thomas Nelson and Netgalley, even though I didn’t actually wind up reading it until almost two weeks after it released.

There Will Be Stars is very loosely a part of a series by Billy Coffey, all set in the same town of Mattingly, Virginia. This is not noted in the Goodreads profile, which is always a mild irritation for me, but I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything having not read the rest of the novels.

The best word I can use to describe this novel is unexpected. I didn’t know what to think at first because the novel is a slow starter, and Bobby is a fairly strange main character. The story and characters really grow on you as you read though. The genre for this is probably best described as religious science fiction, which is not something I’d normally choose for myself, but I found myself wound into this story as much as these characters were wound into their Turns.

I’ve seen other reviewers mention the Southern dialect for many of the characters being annoying to read, but it honestly flowed really naturally. I’ve grown up around people from the country, so it didn’t feel weird to me. I enjoyed the prose and the story kept surprising me.

I loved how much Bobby grew as a character, but I really wish the other characters had been as fleshed out as he was, especially given that we don’t see that much of the town in this story. This story really explores the idea of heaven, hell and demons from the perspective of someone who had lost all belief in any of those things.

I should also note that there is domestic abuse shown in this book, and a mention of rape, so if that’s something that bothers you or is going to trigger you, this isn’t the right book for you.

I’m rating this book three stars, because while I did like it, it took about 100 pages for me to get into it and then the ending felt really rushed to me. I did like the cover art, though.

three stars

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