Review: Von Lagerhaus by Dave DiGrazie

A group of strangers traveling through a surreal afterlife learn about themselves and each other as they seek a mysterious man named Von Lagerhaus.

One minute Rawanzel Johnson was in a Buffalo, N.Y., crack house, getting high, the next she was shivering next to a two-lane road in the middle of a mysterious pine forest. Soon she runs into Karen, a pretty television journalist from North Carolina who says that moments ago she’d run a red light and somehow ended up in the woods. The two find a note on the ground from someone named “G. Von Lagerhaus” welcoming them and urging them to keep walking. Soon they meet more people—a reformed gangster rapper named Terry Twinkle and his spiritual advisor Professor Raymond McDermott, who were struck by lightning while playing a round of golf, and two senior citizens, Lou and Winnie, who died old but were made young again upon arriving in the woods. Together, the group follows the instructions left sporadically by Von Lagerhaus, who always seems to be just on the verge of arriving with all the answers. Meanwhile, as they travel, they develop powerful connections, and occasional conflicts, with one another and discover new, surprising things about themselves. Told in straightforward prose and with a charmingly goofy sense of humor, this novel is short on plot and long on character development. The author creates a wide range of characters and gives them life, only occasionally lapsing into broad cliché. He also displays knowledge of both Eastern and Western thought, and effectively weaves these ideas into the narrative without sounding like he’s teaching Philosophy 101. While some characters are better developed than others, those that are done well feel real, and while several loose ends remain dangling by the end, this is in keeping with the dreamlike nature of the rest of the novel and in no way detracts from the enjoyment.

A thoughtful, charming story of transformation and self-knowledge.

Copyright 2011 Kirkus Media LLC. Used with permission.  Not for republication in any manner.