Ray in Reverse

ISBN: 0142000094
ISBN 13: 9780142000090
By: Daniel Wallace

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Can T Seem To Finish Currently Reading Daniel Wallace Didn T Finish Fantasy Favorites Fiction Sale Box To Read Underhyped Books

About this book

Sitting in the Last Words support group in Heaven, Ray Williams ruminates on his short life of 50 years, his episodes of infidelity, his premature marriage proposal, his sexual confusion, the dog he accidentally killed, and the baby he unwittingly saved.

Reader's Thoughts


One might say this book was not the brightest crayon in the box.


In this book, absolutely nothing happens, which is kind of the point. Ray is dead, and in his afterlife support group he ends up reliving his entire life in order to determine the meaning of his last words ("I wish..."). Overall, it's an interesting read despite the gimmicky writing style.


Not one of the more exciting books ive read (not that it was meant to be).


My second Wallace book after enjoying Big Fish so much, this one wasn’t nearly as good. The book details a man’s life (Ray) by beginning in Heaven with Ray telling others about his last words on earth, and then heads backwards into Ray’s life through a series of related flashback scenes to explain the meaningfulness of his last words. I give him points for creativity, and there are some sentences in here that are so pure it makes you wince. But overall, the story falls flat. When you set up your book with the premise of fulfilling and explaining a man’s last words, you have to nail the ending and the last words. And the book fails to do either, really.


My absolute favorite of all time. It's so sentimental. I knew I would love it after the first sentence.


This was an interesting book, written in an unique perspective. I was looking forward to reading the novel written by the author of Big Fish, which is one of my favorite movies of all time. Ray in Reverse is about a man who is in Heaven and has to explain his life story from reverse. The middle got a little stretched out, but overall, it's definitely worth the read.


I enjoyed this story much more than I expected given so many questionable reviews. That should teach me something about reading too many reviews!Agreed, not as good a story or as strong a character as Big Fish, but that's a tough comparison. This book worked for me on a different level. I thought the first and last chapters were fantastics bookends for the story and the organizational structure - very creative! Without giving any spoilers, the last chapter was great - very poignant - given what came before. Don't discount this book; it's a short, simple and enjoyable read - give it a try.


I expected more, honestly. Big Fish is so creative and whimsical, and since this story is told in reverse I thought there'd be some payoff in that method, but I'm not sure there was. It's pretty good, but a bit disappointing.

Anders Ringdahl-mayland

Daniel Wallace is very gifted at writing sentimental works. A challenge though, in making this approach effective, is maintaining the story's emotional appeal evenly throughout. While each chapter presented an interesting anecdotal foray into some aspect of the title character's life, the author would have done well to omit the one or two chapters that did little to expand on the reader's understanding of Ray's perspective and personality.I have read three of Daniel Wallace's books, and enjoyed each for different reasons, but have found that his strengths as an author seem to amplify his greatest shortcoming as a storyteller. He is tremendously talented at constructing an enjoyable, quirky narrative that incorporates aspects of the surreal or paranormal - but struggles to leave the reader with a satisfactory conclusion.


It started off a lot better than where it is now. I thought I was reading a different story.

Carla Jean

I think my favorite Daniel Wallace book is still Mr. Sebastian. I've enjoyed the others, but none have captured me quite the way that one did.

Shaun Duke

Most of you probably remember Daniel Wallace as the author of Big Fish, which was eventually turned into a fantastic movie staring Ewan McGregor. Fans of Big Fish will likely get the same sense of enjoyment from Ray in Reverse. I found this book on a bargain shelf at Books-a-Million and decided to read it. You'll see why I'm glad I did.Ray in Reverse is a downright strange narrative with a unique and stunning conclusion. Ray Williams is dead and in heaven, where support groups collect people together to discuss various aspects of their lives. But Ray is in the Last Words group, where everyone is discussing the last things they said before death, and embarrassment is setting in: Ray's last words weren't all that interesting, let alone complete. What follows is a chronologically reversed narrative about Ray's life, starting from old age and taking leaps further and further back in time to his childhood, before finally returning back to Heaven. We learn about his triumphs and failures, his wants and desires, and, most of all, the kind of man he came to be through all the trials and tribulations of life.Daniel Wallace has a pension for telling strange and engaging stories. I only saw the movie for Big Fish, but much of the magic and wonder that made that movie shine is also at work in Ray in Reverse. While the narrative does leave many questions open to speculation, the way Wallace has tried to capture the essence of a man, rather than the brilliance of a plot, is something worth noting. The narrative cannot possibly capture every moment in Ray's life to put together some sort of cohesive plot, but it can look into what makes Ray tick, and does so to great effect. We see Ray's life in glimpses in much the same way that we remember the most vivid moments of our pasts in glimpses. Certain memories stick out for us--just as they do for Ray--and when you put them all together they paint a unique picture of you. Ray's backwards motion glimpses do just that, and, by the end, we start to understand who he is, especially in terms of his faults. We also come to understand why the beginning of the novel is so prescient: Ray is the everyman looking back upon himself and wondering, "Who am I?"Ray as everyman is a key thing to note about the novel. He's not perfect--not by a long shot. Ray cheats, thinks ill of other people, and succeeds and fails in much the same way that all of us do. Wallace doesn't pull punches for Ray, because to do so would take away from Ray's tragic, yet painfully average life. Flawed characters are strong characters. I think this is part of what makes the novel so enjoyable to read, because it takes what is so normal and everyday and makes it glamorous in its normality and flaws, for good or for bad. Wallace has a knack for doing just that, because even Big Fish has that kind of normality-turned-to-glamorous feel.Wallace's adept storytelling, however, makes difficult for me to find fault with this novel. On the one hand, I loved the way the narrative was pieced together with glimpses; on the other hand, the glimpses also left a few too many holes for my liking, leaving me with a lot of questions at the end. But, at the same time, those questions are part of how the ending comes together, because even Ray is questioning his life. It's a Catch 22 for a reader, I suppose. Regardless, perhaps a few more glimpses could have made for a more rounded picture, but only if doing so wouldn't detract from the ending.Needless to say, I loved Ray in Reverse. Ray is memorable, the structure of the narrative and the two Heaven scenes framing it make for a fascinating and engaging read, and the everyman has, finally, a little magic attached to the title. Hopefully we'll see more of Wallace in the future. For now, we have Big Fish and Ray in Reverse (and, apparently, a couple other novels I've never heard of before).


Enjoyable and quick read, only a touch of the typical Daniel Wallace absurdism. Not as fantastic as Big Fish, but enjoyable!

Cris Anne Perez

I picked this book on a random library sale. I haven't read The Big Fish yet so I didn't have any expectations when I started reading this but based on the description on the cover, I thought this will be something heart-felt but I was dead wrong.The book is witty and is refreshing. It's been a while since I've read a narrative feeling nothing but entertained. The story is often humorous and delightful. Each of the chapters are stories of their own, mirroring the day-to-day encounters of a man's life. An easy read: nothing too deep but realistic, nevertheless. The dialogues were written excellently, giving life and character to the people speaking. The reason for the two "un-star" is that I wasn't moved by the story. I was entertained but I was not excited for the next page and next chapters. Back to heaven, in the end, I am quite unsatisfied with what he wished for. I am itching for something more or maybe something deeper.

Ron Fitzwater

Simply love this book

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