Grief and Artificial Intelligence in Lingering by Melissa Simonson

“Whenever I think of Clarissa, I always think of her mind. I told her that once, but she called me a liar around a plume of smoke she’d been exhaling.”

Lingering by Melissa Simonson


Death doesn’t have to be the end. 

With Lingering, your departed loved ones are only ever a phone call or text message away.*
Say all those things you should have said. Get their advice, hear their comforting words. Let them celebrate your achievements and soothe your fears like they used to. 
Everyone is welcome, and consultations are always free. 

*Some conditions may apply. Please call our office for details.


  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • ebook
  • Self Published
  • 326 pages
  • Expected publication: March 31st 2019
  • Edition Language English

My Thoughts

Lingering by Melissa Simonson is a story about a man who is dealing with the sudden and violent death of his fiance and the grief therof. The story begins with the main protagonist, Ben visiting the graveyard of his newly deceased fiance. He is a mess, as one would be after experiencing his loss. Simonson talks a lot about the all-consuming viciousness of grief and how it can change your perspective and personality. This particular day at the cemetery Ben is accosted by a woman named Jess. Jess, much like a dealer to a junky, mentions that she has a way for Joe to speak to his fiance Clarissa again.

“She examined the dismal paint job on a thumbnail. “What would you say if I told you you could talk to her again?”
I pressed a hand to my eye hard enough to make red patterns bloom. “I’d say you’re a real bitch with a serious lack of anything better to do, trolling around a cemetery. What is this: your singles lounge?”

Lingering by Melissa Simonson

She has a way to ease Joe’s pain, and it is rather disgusting. Her character comes off as a used car salesman selling pain relief. She claims she is a Lingering Specialist.

After a challenging evening, Ben closes his hand around something in his pocket, the card he had received in the cemetery. On a whim, he calls Jess and sets up a meeting to find out what she can do for him. After the initial call, the story moves at a quick pace. Ben is drawn into the world of Jess and Nick. Nick is the technology behind the company Lingering. A revolutionary way to speak to your deceased loved ones via gathered social media data that is collated into a profile and voice of your loved one. Something of a painkiller for your grief. The new reincarnation of an almost-but-not-quite perfect Clarissa pulls Ben from the world and his friends. Specifically, a man named Joe, who is also dealing with the grief of losing his wife. Joe acts as a counterpoint to Lingering. He is dealing with his grief in a real an entirely human way unlike Lingering that is exploitation and has a wrongness to it. The story progresses, and Ben gets pulled further and further into Lingering until the story has a very dramatic emotional climax and cliffhanger.

Simonson has written some very believable but not entirely relatable characters. Specifically in the character Nick. I can see a person like him existing in the world. His ethical boundaries are non-existent, and he seeks to exploit a piece of technology that he has created. I find him a completely irredeemable and well-written character. His smug smarminess practically dripped off off the page. The issue that I have with the story is Ben. He is a well-written character but, for me, he jumped the shark a few times and threw me out of the story. I had a few times where I thought, “absolutely no way would someone do this.” Maybe they would? But, I had a difficult time understanding his choices. This led to a level of disbelief for the story. I couldn’t wrap my mind around the premise.

The story is marketed as science fiction; however, I found that it had a tough time finding its voice. Was it a murder mystery? A treatise on guilt and grief, or a science fiction about AI? I think if Simonson focused more on the science fiction aspect of it and less on the grief and murder aspect it would be a more successful read for me. To her credit though, Simonson created a very original idea. It is an intriguing, AI to deal with grief. Science Fiction has explored a lot of the AI plot ideas; power, desire, sexuality but this is the first I have read about grief. Although I might not be the correct reader for this story, I am looking forward to Simonson’s next read. She has a great voice inside of her, and her next book will be even better.

*quotes are taken from an eARC and may change upon publication.

Let’s Talk

  1. What do you think about AI being used in grief abatement?
  2. What are some other stories that use AI run amok?
  3. How do you think grief is handled in literature?


I received an eARC from the author in exchange for my open and honest review.

About the Author

Slave/mother to a herd of animals, Loch Ness monster enthusiast, breaker of many a wine glass. 

Do not challenge her to Harry Potter trivia unless you wish to be slaughtered.


  1. Amanda Cade

    There was a similar premise in a Black Mirror episode. The questions you posed are interesting. I’m honestly not sure how I would feel if such a thing was possible. At a minimum, I think, anyone who was using the technology should be required to receive counseling to make sure it isn’t doing more harm than good.

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