Picture this: A dark room with walls that seem to have no end and a ceiling that seems to fall too low; a smell like burning hair and musty cupboards; the distant cries of pain and suffering echoing around and around 24 hours a day, seven days a week… Welcome to Hell.
In my favorite new winter read, A Beautiful Hell, author Jamie Authorson (or should I say, the modern day Dante) brings the reader along through the most incredibly vivacious and creative depiction of the underworld I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing. We follow the story of Anabela Sinner, a woman in her mid forties who (just as the novel begins) has been hit by a car and died an untimely death. She wakes up in a flaming room and- after a panic- learns from a secretary of Hell that she has sinned far too much in her life to ascend to heaven and will now spend eternity in hell. The secretary, a woman who is the spitting image of a young Kaiser Wilhelm, gives Anabela a tour of her new home and promises to check in on her over the coming years before leaving her in the darkness of her depressing room.
After a week or so in Hell (time passes strangely there), Anabela begins to lose all hope for ever experiencing happiness again… until one day in the salt mines (where she has been forced to work) she literally stumbles into the most handsome man she has ever met, Adam Reginald III. The moment they lock eyes they immediately feel a connection- it is true love. But is it too late?
A Beautiful Hell is such an incredible novel because it really makes the reader contemplate what love means and whether something so pure and wonderful can cleanse any sin. Authorson truly plays the part of devil’s advocate in the relationship between Anabela and Adam Reginald III- letting us as the reader fall in love with them only to then turn around and question our own sense of right and wrong. I won’t give away too many of the twists and turns- but one major one is when Authorson reveals that Adam Reginald III was, in fact, a serial killer during his life. This causes Anabela some serious reconsideration of whether or not humans are inherently good and whether she can be with someone like Adam Reginald III.
Here is one of my favorite excerpts from the book (it’s from the second to last page of the book, so don’t read too much into it or it might spoil something!!)
“Well,” the Devil said quietly as he paced around Anabela and Adam Reginald III, “you both have sinned greatly in life and were sent to me to suffer. You, Adam Reginald III for the murder of seventeen people. And you, Anabela, for the embezzlement of thousands of dollars from innocents… Yet you dare to approach me and ask for forgiveness because your love is so pure?” He paused in front of the large mirror and stroked his pointy beard.
Adam Reginald III shifted uncomfortably on his feet, searching for the best way to explain the Devil that true love can break any curse- even that of his serial killings. His voice caught in his throat with fear though, and he glanced at Anabela for encouragement. She smiled sweetly, then grabbed his hand and lifted her chin to the Devil.
“Devil,” Anabela’s voice commanded the attention of the room, “we may have committed some minor crimes in life, but we were wrong and we apologize. If I still had a soul and didn’t have to give it up to the secretary when I first arrived here, in Hell, I would know with 100% certainty that it has been cleansed and I am once again innocent and pure. Love can do that to a person.”
The Devil narrowed his eyes at her. He knew she was telling the truth, but for once in his life he wasn’t sure what the right thing to do was. He took a deep breath.
“Alright. I’ll give you two options. You may either continue to spend eternity in hell, suffering, but at least you both will be together. Or I can send you both back to life where you will have a second chance to live without sin, however you will have no memory of having ever met. The choice is yours. I will give you six minutes to decide.”
I’m on the edge of my seat even though I already know what happens!! This is a total must read and a definite 6 out of 10 stars. I would have given it 8 stars, but the ending was soooo depressing when Adam Reginald III says he wants to go back to life and Anabela says she wants to stay in hell with him and then the Devil separates them for all eternity omggg I cried. The rest of the book was uplifting though- love is such a powerful thing to read about.
Thanks again all of you for reading the blog- I hope you all love A Beautiful Hell as much as I did!