Beyond the Darkness: My Near-Death journey to the edge of hell and back, by Angie Fenimore (Bantam Books; $5.50).
Synopsis: After a life of harrowing abuse at the hands of a nightmare cast of sadists and psychopaths--her family--the author dies and is sent to hell, only to be plucked out by God, whom she encounters face-to-face.
Representative Quote: "He really had a body with arms and legs and features like mine, and I immediately fixated on His nose. There was a bump on the bridge that tapered into a sharp point, like a nose you might find on a Greek vase painting."
Noteworthy Flaw: Hell has Early American furniture--and is not nearly as terrible as Fenimore's prior life on earth.
Zolar's Book of Reincarnation: how to discover your past lives, by Zolar (Fireside; $12).
Synopsis: Human souls are far too significant to ever disappear at death. If you are interested in your own past lives, you can learn about them by using a mirror, a small dish of water, two candles, and a white crayon. Incense is optional.
Representative Quote: "Stare at this triangle and its place in your reflection, for an additional seven minutes. When doing so you must try to be as still as possible and not turn your head from side to side. Now, stand up and say out loud three times, 'I now ask the Masters of the White Flame to reveal to me my Past Lives. So may it be!'"
Noteworthy Flaw: Never addresses the central mystery of reincarnation: why believers invariably discover they were Egyptian princesses or medieval knights in past lives. Don't shop clerks and scullery maids get reincarnated too?
A Sacred Dying, by Barry Neil Kaufman and Samahria Lyte Kaufman (Epic Century; $12.95).
Synopsis: Novellike story of how the family of a young woman dying of cancer pulls together around her to "go beyond the pain and discover new insights, joy and even laughter" at her death, making it "a new and special way to celebrate life."
Representative Quote: "'Look at that special sky, Chad.' Low, white puffy clouds hovered in a bright, blue sky. 'This must be my lucky day.' Ten minutes later, Margaret Millen, aged thirty-nine, stopped breathing on her favorite kind of day. A soft smile caressed the unchanging features of her face."
Noteworthy Flaw: Minutes before Margaret Millen dies with her family pulling together around her in a new and special celebration, her 17-year-old son breezes off to school. "Gonna miss my bus," he blurts before running out the door, sending his mother off into the Great Beyond with a cheery, "Hey, you look good, Mom. See you later."