April 3, 2003


Safe in Heaven Dead

reviewed by
Dawn Ballenger









For more about Sam Ligon, please visit our feature page.

Safe in Heaven Dead is a well-paced road trip tale that starts with a bang. Samuel Ligon begins his novel at the end, a suspenseful tactic with cinematic qualities that kept me reading. The layered plot unfolds through the voices of Robert Elgin and Carla. Ligonís switching of the point of view was seamless, and a creative way to give dimension to all of the characters, especially Carla and Elgin. We know these heroes, and find ourselves liking them because of their flaws and skewed perceptions of reality.

Elginís seemingly secure life begins to disintegrate when a twelve-year-old neighbor molests his five-year-old daughter. His wife turns to revenge, intense therapy, and religion, while Elgin distances himself from the event and his family. A chance to escape occurs when Elgin happens upon illegal money skimmed from public employees; he takes the money and disappears. A fresh life is all Elgin wants, but he is so mired in regret and doom that his newfound freedom is more suffocating than his former life.

When Elgin meets Carla, Ligonís talent for terse and guarded dialog becomes apparent. The details of their lives are revealed to each other only in weak moments. There is hesitation followed by hope which gives way inevitably to the long shadow cast by their past lives. Carla and Elgin are like two lead instruments taking solos -- risky, bright and optimistic, but always drawn back to the melody.

There are many coruscate aspects to this book. Ligonís prose is realistic and tight. But best of all, he is a skillful storyteller. He takes us effortlessly into the gray world of government labor negotiations, juvenile sex crimes and high priced prostitutes. Safe In Heaven Dead is not flashy or anxious to be pleasant, Ligon stays true to the motivations of his characters and delivers an uncommon novel.

Dawn Ballenger, April 3, 2003

~ for more about Sam Ligon, please see his feature page here on ArtSavant ~

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