This is a wonderful, wonderful story. It is a touch of sweetness.
Calder is a Fetch, which is an escort that comes to a person at the time of their death. The Fetch waits while the soul decides to stay or go, and doesn't influence the soul's decision. If the soul chooses to go, the Fetch takes them through a door. This door leads to some destinations along the way to the soul's final place. There is the crossing of a river on a boat steered by The Captain. The Fetch then goes back and another door opens, and the whole thing begins all over again.
The rest of the story plays out against the backdrop of the world in 1918, starting with the Russian Revolution and the death of the Romanov family.
These characters are just amazing. Calder, especially, who is the Fetch that is naive and yet discerning, sinful but with good intentions, humble and repentant. He is fiercely protective and unafraid in situations where a person would be afraid. He is unsure but fear never stops him. I think what I loved the most about him is that he was unbound by the body and the human world. He seemed to maintain his identity amid the journey.
Ana is a wonderful character, protective of her brother without being overbearing or a nag. She inherently sees the value beyond the flesh. And we see her go from a frightened girl to a woman who is not only wise, but who can see a person without the "clothing" of their flesh.
Alexis is just what I expected him to be without being predictable. That was refreshing.
These are not typical characters and this is not a typical story. It is a breath of fresh air amid all the other fiction out there. The ending is left open to interpretation, and yet it didn't feel unfinished.
This is one of those books that stays with you, and the longer you think about it the more you like it. It carries you along and leaves you with a sweetness. Laura Whitcomb has a way with a story, and I find myself wanting to read everything she's written. It will be time well spent if her other books are anything like this one and A Certain Slant of Light.