What happens when we die? And what happens to those of us who are propelled into the strange reality of a near death experience? How do we re-integrate into the world when our understanding of reality has been turned upside-down? A Benevolent Virus follows the intertwining stories of two NDE survivors who struggle to make sense of their lives in the wake of an NDE. Ann Richards, a successful television reporter is faced with the breakdown of her marriage and her career as she struggles to get to the truth of her experience. Daniel Breton, an ex-Marine who was near-fatally injured in Fallujah, tries to find meaning in his NDE by recording the stories of others who have had similar experiences. Both Ann and Daniel are set on a spiritual adventure that forces them each to explore ideas of consciousness and the quantum universe that challenge their old worldview.
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Frances O'Brien is described as being 'committed to a career in spiritual fiction and to delivering spiritual works to readers who would never think of venturing into the mind, body, spirit section of their bookstore'. She also happens to be a fine storyteller, one who has done her research into the near death experiences, who has the ability to distill the terror of war in the manner not only of a fine journalist but also as one who has listened carefully to the men and women who have survived wars, and has the ability to mold this gathered information into a fine story. THE BENEVOLENT VIRUS is a well-developed novel that combines the stories of two significant characters in a parallel fashion and ultimately joins these disparate characters at the end of the book in a finely honed and thoughtful climax. Ann Richards is a beautiful and gifted television reporter who interviews interesting people for the television audience. She is in a critical car crash, has an out of body experience where she watches the crash from above, noting all the details of the strange crash and has a near death experience where she sees not only the present but also her past in ways that open her eyes to secrets that answer many questions about her life. She survives the crash despite serious trauma and in the healing phases she is forced to come to grips with a failing marriage, a mother who has held secrets from her, and a career that threatens to end until she discovers a new way to use her experience. Likewise Daniel Breton suffered a major injury in the Iraq war and also had a near death experience. Upon returning to health Daniel sets out to interview others who have had near death experiences, finding similarities and a common thread of attention to the spiritual aspect of being. In the course of his experiences he loses his best friend and it is his contemplation of his NDE that allows him to resort his life. In the stories of these two very well drawn people the driving question is whether the near death experience and the discovery that death is not terrifying but actually beautiful makes living life on this level as worthy. Is having a near death experience that can only be grasped by fellow travelers a blessing or a curse? O'Brien manages to answer these questions in a manner that makes the reader sensitive to the possibilities of life after death and to the wonders of the spiritual world. And she does this without a trace of being maudlin or preachy: the facts of her story are laid out for the reader to examine and then explore privately at book's end. Other writers have explored this arena but few with the skill of O'Brien: it is one thing to discuss the near death experience as an entity and it is quite another to blend it into a story that holds our attention to the end. Grady Harp