A Brilliant and Funny Priestdaddy

In her memoir, Priestdaddy, Patricia (Tricia) Lockwood’s father is a walking “exception to the rules.” He is, in fact, a priestdaddy. He was a Lutheran minister when he married Tricia’s mother, who is Catholic. Subsequently he converted to Catholicism, and the Vatican allowed him to become a priest. So he is not just a father, who wears nothing but worn out boxers around the house, he is also a Father, who wears nothing but worn out boxers around the house. “All fathers believe they are God, and I took it for granted that my father especially believed it.” Her view of motherhood is more earthly. “A mother, as I understood it, was someone who was always trying to give you sixty dollars.” Her father believes in clear rules and boundaries – for other people. Her mother has never seen a boundary – not even on a map.

When 19 year old Tricia meets Jason online, they become fast friends. So fast that Jason soon shows up to take her away. As is typical, her father disappears “upstairs to fondle his guns and drink cream liqueurs.” Her mother is convinced Tricia will be found murdered on the roadside. But Tricia is unconcerned, because it turns out Jason is tall. And she has always trusted tall men.

Surprisingly, the relationship does not end with murder (maybe there is something to this tall man thing). They eventually are married by her father; however, health issues and a lack of money mean Tricia and Jason must move back in with her parents after leaving 12 years earlier. That is where this raucous and hilarious story starts.

And while there is much humor, there is trauma too. When she was in her teens, Tricia was raped by a family friend. Years later, she wrote an incredible poem, Rape Joke, about this horrific event. The poem went viral and contributed mightily to establishing her as a successful and respected (not always the same) writer. However, that is in the future. The rape, and everything that happens immediately thereafter, is soul crushing.

When she is examined by a pro-life doctor (the only kind her parents would allow), he tells her in a voice without charity or sympathy: “well, now you’ve learned that you can’t trust everyone, can you?” So that’s less than helpful. Plus, is it necessary to be raped to learn that lesson? Couldn’t we just learn it when (inevitably) a friend borrows $5.00 and never pays it back?

Her personal trauma aligns with the global trauma of the Catholic Church’s child sex abuse scandal. As with Tricia, the abusive treatment continues well after the children are raped by priests. Her father is moved from church to church to “heal” the community after a priest accused of sexual misconduct is transferred to a different parish. Her father is either unaware or refuses to see that he is being used to help the church cover-up of the scandal. When Tricia meets the bishop, who will later go to prison for shielding pedophile priests, she sees “[t]he compassion in [his] face, that flowed toward the sinner and never the sinned-against, that forgave before justice had even been meted out.” This is a recurring theme. Where is the empathy for the victims? Why is it reserved only for the powerful and/or corrupt? Why is the reporter revealing the rot discredited as if “publication of the facts is the real crime?” Would we sue a building inspector for telling the residents that the foundation is crumbling and the building about to collapse? Actually, yeah, we probably would.

As with any good memoir (and this is an excellent one), the narration of specific life events (no matter how interesting) is secondary to the search for meaning. “Part of what you have to figure out in life is, who would I be if I hadn’t been frightened? What hurt me, and what would I be if it hadn’t?” Would Tricia be so intellectually curious and honest? Perhaps. Would she be as irreverent and funny? Maybe. Would she be such an insightful and powerful writer? Would she know exactly where to punch us so that all the air runs out of our lungs screaming “what just happened?” We suspect the answer is . . . . Well, fortunately, our suspicions don’t matter here.

This book is a delight. Where Tricia could have been bitter and cynical, she is loving and kind. But most of all she is honest. It is quite a feat. Despite being raped. Despite trying to commit suicide. Despite being unable to get pregnant. Despite having a narcissistic, remote, and strange father, this strong, sarcastic, independent, thoughtful, and deeply-funny person is able to simply and wonderfully conclude “I understand that what I have is enough.” We wish the same for ourselves and for you.

Alison Wonderland, Chief Editor and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans

History of Wolves – Who’s Watching Who?

In Emily Fridlund’s History of Wolves there are predators who are sometimes preyed upon. And there are prey who sometimes become predators. This is no surprise because as the narrator, Madeline, who at school was called “Linda, or Commie, or Freak,” explains in her report (called History of Wolves) “an alpha animal may be alpha only at certain times for a specific reason.” This concept certainly applies to Madeline, though her reasons for being a predator (when she is one) are not clear. The recklessness of a child trying to prey on an adult is.

Madeline is 37 years old when she tells her story, and the narrative consists of flashbacks of when she was 4, 15, and 26 – so 11 is an important number here. Why? No idea. But the internet says (the following is to be read with an authoritative British accent): when the number 11 appears frequently in your life, there is a need to find or restore balance.

When Madeline was 15 years old (the pivotal year in this story), a new history teacher, Mr. Grierson, mysteriously arrived from California. Why would a man suddenly leave a prestigious California high school to teach in northern Minnesota? Could he be a child molester – the worst kind of predator? That seems unlikely. Does he just prefer life in the bleakest part of Minnesota, where winter is 11 months every year? That sounds right.

Despite her suspicions about Mr. Grierson, Madeline regularly puts herself into situations where she’s alone with him – as if she is trying to tempt or entrap him. The question of who’s watching you, while you are watching someone else, emerges as a theme. Madeline is watching Mr. Grierson, who is watching Lily ( another young girl at the high school). Who is Lily watching? Mr. Grierson may want to pay attention to that. So someone is always watching you – whether you know it or not. That’s not comforting, but no one cares about your comfort. In fact, reading this story is like walking with a splinter in your heel. Yet, it is so well told, you must read on.

All of this is introductory, designed to make the reader uneasy – off balance, if you will. The story really takes off when a young couple with a small child move into a cabin near Madeline’s home, and she becomes the boy’s babysitter. Paul is 4; Madeline is 15; Patra (the boy’s mom) is 26; and Leo (the boy’s dad) is 37. Hey, 11 snuck in here again. Does that mean something? Probably not. Don’t worry about it.

Early on, the reader learns Paul will not live to see 5. The reader also learns Leo and Patra started dating when she was 19 and in college. Leo was her teacher. Patra insists, however, that’s not creepy because she pursued him. Believe what you will, but there’s that predator question again.

Paul is clearly ill. However, Leo is a Christian Scientist so medicine and doctors are forbidden. Patra doesn’t know what to do. She wants to believe Leo knows best. She wants to have faith. Is she being preyed upon? Why won’t anyone answer these freaking questions? Ultimately, Paul dies (as we know he will) from a treatable condition. Leo and Patra are put on trial, and Madeline is the key witness.

This a story about an adult struggling to find balance. Attempting to understand and recover from the damage of two traumatic events when she was 15 years old. The questions to be resolved are difficult. “What’s the difference between what you want to believe and what you do believe?” And “[w]hat’s the difference between what you think and what you end up doing?” But the answers to tough questions don’t come easy. They never do.

Alison Wonderland, Chief Editor and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans

Martin Amis and the Art of Self Abuse

How do you create a story about a truly despicable person and make him sympathetic? Martin Amis in Money has a simple answer. You don’t. Because that’s a fool’s errand, and Mr. Amis is no fool. However, it also means the reader is not going to like John Self, the narrator and protagonist (we guess), or pretty much anyone else in the book. Self is an alcoholic, who finds pleasure in the simple things: sex, drugs, and money. And he is abusive with all of them. He is abusive with women. In fact, there is nothing and no one he does not abuse – including himself (our favorite kind of abuse). Despite this, he frequently and somewhat engagingly speaks directly to the reader asking for sympathy. “I want sympathy, even though I find it so very hard to behave sympathetically.”

Money ostensibly is about John Self, but it is really about money and all the reprehensible things people do to get money and (even more so) once they have money. So the title is no misdirection. The story, which was written (and is set) in the early 1980s, successfully captures that decade’s Zeitgeist. “The streets are full of movement but hardly anybody goes where they go through thought or choice, free of money motive.”

Self (think self-absorbed or self-indulgent or self-destructive or self-pitying or self-ish or your-self) has made a lot of money directing fast food commercials in London. But now he has an opportunity to direct his first movie and make piles more. As a result he spends much of his time shuttling between London and New York – drunk and failing miserably to manage his personal and professional lives. Though he craves money, he doesn’t actually understand money – other than how to spend it.

Everything about Self is tacky and sticky. He is an old stool in the back corner of a truck stop strip club. And because he is drunk or hungover nearly all the time, he has no clue what is happening around him. He continually gets into ludicrous situations that are quite funny at times. Self (occasionally) is also comically self-aware. “It puts you at a big disadvantage with the ladies, being drunk all the time.” But the humor particularly sizzle when Mr. Amis skewers movie stars and the movie-making business. At other times, however, the humor is dated – as it frequently comes at the expense of a self-destructive alcoholic when he is blindingly drunk.

One unexpected pleasure is Martin Amis appears as a character (because it is impossible for a novel to be post-modern unless the author is a character). Martin Amis (the character) tries to assist Self with the movie’s script, but this conceit allows Martin Amis (the writer) to make witty observations about writing, such as an “author is not free of sadistic impulses.” Based upon Mr. Amis’ abuse of Self (self-abuse?), truer words are not found in this novel.

The story is at its satirical best when Mr. Amis is mocking the pretensions of actors and other movie people. However, the novel lags about two-thirds of the way through and then limps to its conclusion. And just as with life outside books, it gets tiresome watching an unlikeable, self-destructive person continuously self-destruct.

Alison Wonderland, Chief Editor and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans

The Testaments – Why, Margaret, Why?

Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments begs many questions.

Such as how did it become the joint winner of the 2019 Man Booker Prize? Did the committee hate Bernardine Evaristo so much that they simply couldn’t stand making her book (Girl, Woman, Other) the sole winner?

Did the committee actually read The Testaments, or were they simply relying on Margaret Atwood’s reputation?

How mad were Colson Whitehead (The Nickel Boys), Susan Choi (Trust Exercise), and Ian McEwan (Machines Like Me) when the prize was announced?

Were James Patterson, E.L. James, and my Uncle Bill on the committee that year?

Did Margaret Atwood really write The Testaments? Or was it written by a Russian hacker who stole her identity but forgot to also take her brilliance?

Did this book need to be written? Isn’t any sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale (regardless of whether it is written by the real Margaret Atwood or not) bound to disappoint?

Why are the characters one dimensional and without nuance? Why is the plot predictable? Why are all the twists straight lines?

Did she write the book because the creators of The Handmaid’s Tale TV show needed more material – so they paid her a ton of money to do it?

Just because you own a cash cow, do you have to milk it?

Alison Wonderland, Chief Editor and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans.

Klara and the Sun – Lifted AF

Kazuo Ishiguro is a talented creator of worlds that seem gentle and quaint: manor homes in a countryside of lush greenery, fancy boarding schools surrounded by gardens, or gentile houses overlooking bucolic meadows. The reader gets acclimated to the pleasant surroundings. Starts to enjoy the scenery. Notices how the birds chirp with fine English accents. Then it dawns on the reader that the main character has devoted his life to serving an obnoxious Nazi sympathizer (The Remains of the Day). Or the primary characters are clones whose organs will soon be harvested – a fate they passively accept (Never Let Me Go). Or parents subject their children to genetic editing, even though the process may be deadly, so the children can get into elite colleges – unless, of course, they die first (Klara and the Sun). The horror creeps up quietly. Then, suddenly, the monster is in the reader’s lap, licking the reader’s ear, demanding that its messy diaper be changed. And the reader wonders, how did I get here? Even though the clues were there all along.

Klara and the Sun takes place in an alternate reality of the United States, but the reader will find much that is familiar, except (importantly) for the extremely-advanced artificial intelligence. Klara is an artificial friend (think highly-sophisticated robot), and she narrates the story. Artificial friends (AFs) are sold in stores and frequently are purchased to keep teenagers (in well-off families) company. Each AF has a unique set of skills, and Klara’s is her ability to observe and learn. She can empathize.

Klara is selected by Josie, who is 14 years old. However, Josie’s mother has different plans. Klara will be groomed to become much more than an AF – a future that is hinted at when they are still in the store and Josie’s mother directs Klara to mimic Josie’s awkward way of walking. Josie has been “lifted” – a clever euphemism (rhymes with gifted) that sounds so much better than “subjected to genetic editing without having any say about it.” But the process has left her weak and sickly, all of which is manifested by her overly-cautious way of walking.

Not all children are lifted. Some parents can’t afford it. Other parents find it too risky. Though the story takes place in an alternate reality, the reader can take great comfort knowing that disingenuous platitudes still exist – as does the desperate need to pretend that social inequities don’t exist. Parents in this alternative United States still tell themselves and each other that not all children need to be lifted – that “there are all kinds of ways to lead a successful life.” No doubt this is as true as it has ever been, but we can’t help thinking all these parents spouting platitudes had their children lifted.

But why are we talking about children? The book is not called Klara and Josie – a hip new indie duo. It is Klara and the Sun for a reason – just, maybe, not a very good one – though the reader could argue (based upon the ending) that Klara’s relationship with the Sun is the key relationship in the story. First, the Sun is essential to everyone – duh. But it is especially important to Klara, because she runs on solar power. In a book where no humans express any religious belief, Klara determines that the Sun is a god. She prays to her Sun god to heal Josie. Like any human religious zealot, she commits acts of vandalism to appease her god. And depending on the reader’s point of view, Klara is either rewarded for her faith or deceived by it. But the true dilemma has little to do with religion, so ultimately Klara’s relationship with the Sun is a bit distracting.

As with all his books, Mr. Ishiguro excels at human interactions, and he asks crucial questions in Klara and the Sun. Such as, why are we talking about humans at all, when the story is narrated by a super-cool empathy machine? Are humans all that special when machines can be groomed to replicate them so perfectly? As Josie’s father puts it, “[s]cience has now proved beyond doubt there’s nothing so unique about my daughter, nothing there our modern tools can’t excavate, copy, transfer.” That’s depressing. Fortunately, Klara has a rebuttal. “Mr. Capaldi (an engineer/scientist) believed there was nothing special inside Josie that couldn’t be continued. He told the Mother he’d searched and found nothing like that. But I believe now he was searching in the wrong place. There was something very special, but it wasn’t inside Josie. It was inside those who loved her.”

Alison Wonderland, Chief Editor and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans

My Dark Vanessa – Not Your Father’s Lolita

It is impossible to hear or read about a middle-aged man statutorily raping a teenage girl without thinking of Vladimir Nabokov’s classic, Lolita. If you need proof – even Sting, who will readily admit to being the greatest songwriter since King David, mentioned Nabokov in Don’t Stand So Close to Me. He tried to use Lolita’s name first, but nothing rhymes with Lolita.

In My Dark Vanessa Kate Elizabeth Russell takes Lolita and shifts the perspective to that of the abused girl. However, the pedophile here is not an unintentionally-funny, delusional, and ultimately pathetic Humbert Humbert. Quite the opposite, Jacob Strane (think of Strange), the 15 years old Vanessa’s English teacher, is an experienced and masterful manipulator, and he cynically preys upon Vanessa’s loneliness and desperation to be thought of as special. Early on he tells her that she has “something these dime-a-dozen overachievers (her fellow classmates) can only dream of.” Proving he is a master of the back-handed compliment as well.

Nabokov and Lolita feature prominently in this brilliant and creepy book. The title comes from Nabokov’s Pale Fire, which Strane is pleased to inform Vanessa has a passage where my dark Vanessa is rhapsodized as an admirable butterfly to be worshiped and caressed. Strane’s “grooming” of Vanessa also includes giving her his copy of Lolita, with his hand-written notes in the margins. Yeah, Strane is a disgusting creep, but Vanessa craves this attention, so she is incapable of seeing it. Or (just as concerning) she won’t acknowledge seeing it.

The story jumps between two periods in Vanessa’s life: her high school and college years (between 2000 and 2007) and 2017 at the height of the Me Too movement when she is 32 years old. Much like Humbert Humbert, Vanessa is an unreliable narrator who ends up deceiving no one but herself (again like Humbert Humbert, but without the ridiculous name). Initially, she refuses to accept that she has even been abused, as she insists the relationship (despite the obvious imbalance of power) was consensual. And she continues to grapple with the effects of the abuse well into adulthood. “I always seem to end up going out with . . . men who claim to be turned on by strength but can only handle women who act like girls.” Having the two timelines is effective. The reader sees how the sexual abuse of children was ignored even into the early 2000s, and then how it is everything but ignored at the height of the Me Too movement – where victims are pressured into telling their stories whether they want to or not. The reader experiences how the adult Vanessa begins to come to terms with the years of abuse. It isn’t pretty or romantic, but in a way it is heroic.

Regardless of its title, Lolita’s story was not told in Lolita. In My Dark Vanessa, it is. And the change of perspective (especially in light of the Me Too movement) is devastating. Because they have earned it, Vanessa and Lolita shall have the final words here. “What could we have done? We were just girls. . . . [It’s] not that we were helpless by choice, but that the world forced us to be. Who would have believed us, who would have cared?”

Alison Wonderland, Chief Editor and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans

American Pastoral: Who are You?

Philip Roth was a very important American writer, and no one knew that better than Philip Roth. If you have read only one sentence of Mr. Roth’s, then you know he was born in Newark, New Jersey, where he appears to have spent much of his life wandering the streets making prescient observations about humanity. He wrote many books, but American Pastoral is the only one that has a legend attached to its creation.

The legend is this. One day, while Mr. Roth was roaming Newark, a vagrant challenged him. “I bet you could never write a short and sweet tale about this town.” So Mr. Roth wrote American Pastoral, and the vagrant won the bet. But be forewarned, despite what the title may suggest, the book has little to do with farming (the small amount of farming that does happen takes place in northern New Jersey – putting this book firmly in the Fantasy genre).

In American Pastoral Mr. Roth argues that we know very little about people beyond the superficial exterior they present of themselves – even the people we have known our entire lives. Now, you may be thinking this is patently false. Has Mr. Roth heard of the internet? Why, I can go to the internet or turn on talk radio or cable news and immediately learn how worthless and evil anyone is. If the person is noteworthy for anything (or nothing at all), there will be thousands of people (if not more) prepared to tell me how awful the person is, even if they have never met. And if the person is a nobody, there will still be a dozen people prepared to blithely inform me of the nobody’s moral and ethical failings. To which Mr. Roth would reply, “I have heard of the internet, you idiot. And everything you have said is entirely correct. And all of it proves my point. Now leave me alone, I am dead.”

Mr. Roth uses a lot of words in American Pastoral, and some of them he uses quite well. But a single paragraph will often trudge across several pages as he tracks and bludgeons his theme. This leaves the reader somewhat impressed but mostly exhausted. However, all those words culminate in a second curious thought. Perhaps the fact that we do not really know other people is not all that surprising considering how we actually know very little about ourselves beyond the superficial exterior we present to others.

Alison Wonderland, Chief Editor and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans

Mexico Goes Gothic

The internet says a gothic novel must have (i) a spooky castle or mansion in a remote location; (ii) a thicc atmosphere of dread and suspense; (iii) ancient legends, mysteries, and/or curses relating to the strange family residing in the creepy castle; (iv) ghosts or supernatural events; (v) thicc sexual innuendo or (even better) explicit sex, which leaves the reader feeling dirty and delighted; (vi) women in distress; and (vii) tyrannical men who enjoy distressing women.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia has clearly consulted the internet, because her novel, Mexican Gothic, checks all the must-have boxes. However, despite observing all the conventions, the story never feels conventional, because her protagonist, Noemi, never wilts despite the peril she is in. And the house is spectacularly malignant. It is an organism intent on making evil.

The book opens with Noemi’s father receiving a strange letter from Catalina, his niece. Catalina has recently married Virgil Doyle and left Mexico City to live with Virgil’s family in their ancestral home. In the confusing and rambling letter, Catalina hints that she is now a prisoner of the Doyle family. Having grown up together, Catalina and Noemi are close, so Noemi is tasked with traveling to this barren corner of Mexico to find out what is going on.

Originally from Britain, the Doyle family has lived in Mexico for generations. But they remain anglophiles. As if that is not bad enough, the gruesome patriarch, Howard, has a disturbing interest in eugenics. Major Theme Alert: eugenics is bad. If you think eugenics is cool, do not read this book. It will only disappoint you. Also, what the hell is wrong with you?

If you think eugenics is problematic or (better yet) horrific, you will enjoy reading Mexican Gothic. The bad people are truly evil. Noemi is a strong, likeable protagonist. And though she becomes a prisoner of the house along with Catalina, Noemi is no damsel in distress. Quite the contrary. As Ms. Moreno-Garcia tells us, Noemi learned rebellion as a young girl in Catholic school while muttering the rosary. Her strength serves her well. But there is one frustrating problem with the book. The reader discerns what Catalina and Noemi must do to escape well before they do. And when Noemi finally figures it out, it is too late.

Or is it?

Alison Wonderland, Chief Editor and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans

The Remains of the Day and The Dignity of Dedicated Service

In 2017 Kazuo Ishiguro won the Nobel Prize in Literature. This reminded us of how much we loved his book, The Remains of the Day, which we read many years ago. So we intended (back in 2017) to write a tribute to Mr. Ishiguro celebrating his achievement, but we forgot. Regardless, it is never too late to celebrate great literature, and now is as good a time as any to revisit this work. As an aside, we did not read the book again (why would anyone ever read a book twice?), so everything that follows is based upon our memory. Fortunately, our memory is perfect.

Much has been written about The Remains of the Day. In fact, the book is so well-respected we made it mandatory reading in our 20th Century Bloviated Literature course. Because it is nearly impossible to say anything new about this book, we have decided not to try.

The major theme is the dignity of service or work, as personified by the main character, Jeeves, who served as a butler to a noble Englishman, Lord Nazi Lover. [Note to reader: this was in the 1930s before it was cool to be a Nazi sympathizer]. After the English lord dies, the American hero, Clark Kent, flies in and buys the English manor. Based upon a peculiarity of English law, the butler conveys with the house, and Jeeves now works for Mr. Kent. [Note to reader: it is unclear whether current English law still allows you to buy a manor home with the butler included, but it probably does].

Mr. Kent discovers that Jeeves has not had a vacation since he was 6 years old, so he allows Jeeves to borrow his Rolls Royce (see how nice Americans are) and take a drive in the countryside, which is described sumptuously by Mr. Ishiguro. High jinks then ensue, including Jeeves’ visit with Mrs. Plushbottom, a woman who once worked at the manor house. As the story progresses, we learn that Jeeves may have been in love with Mrs. Plushbottom, but his dignity and his dedication to Lord Nazi Lover prevented him from disclosing this. Then, Jeeves drives back to Mr. Kent and resumes his service.

Mr. Ishiguro does a stellar job of skewering the English elite. And rightfully so. They are pompous, prejudiced, prudish, privileged, and perpendicular. Which then begs the question. Were Jeeves’ many years of dignified service dedicated to a despicable person worth the sacrifice of love and potential happiness? Mr. Ishiguro telegraphs the answer by making that employer a Nazi sympathizer. So the answer, of course, is yes. Nothing in England is more important than sacrificing your personal happiness to devotedly serve a Nazi sympathizer. At least, that’s how we remember the book.

Alison Wonderland, Chief Editor and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans.

A Children’s Bible That’s Not for Children

In A Children’s Bible, Lydia Millet draws from the Old Testament, the New Testament, and Revelation to tell a modern story about a world devastated by climate change. Appropriately enough, the narrator is Eve, whose affluent parents decide to spend the summer with several college friends. These families rent an isolated mansion, which brings Eve and her brother, Jack, together with 10 other children. The parents spend their time drinking alcohol and taking drugs. The children are left alone. So it is a pretty sweet vacation.

During one brief moment of sobriety, a parent gives Jack a children’s bible, which becomes his fifth favorite book to read while sitting on the toilet – just as any book by Bill O’Reilly is our fifth favorite bathroom book. Soon, a hurricane hits the area and there is massive flooding. The parents are catatonic and unhelpful. However, a small man, Burl, literally washes up on the premises and leads the children to relative safety on a nearby farm, where he provides the children with clean drinking water and a decent supply of food – think manna from heaven. It appears that Burl has saved the children, but then the men with guns show up.

It does not take a brilliant adjunct professor from Pungent Sound Technical College of Technology to point out all the biblical references, but we will do it anyway. There is flooding that even Noah, who is played here by Jack, would have difficulty handling. The parents worship false idols (drugs, money, and alcohol). Burl is a Moses-like character leading the 12 children (or 12 tribes of Israel) through a dismal landscape. There is even one section where a remote God-like character sends via Burl rules, which sound a lot like the Ten Commandments (however, the one about honoring your mother and father is conspicuously missing). Eve is Eve (duh). And there are angels, who appear as aging hippies, so they smell bad and sing corny songs. They also always seem on the verge of performing Godspell, which is obviously one of the signs of the Apocalypse.

The novel is fast-paced and gripping – at times humorous and then deadly serious. Eve is an engaging narrator. She has an unblinking eye and a razor tongue. Like most teenagers, she is repulsed by her parents and adults in general. “They had double asses – asses that stuck out, then sagged and bulged again. Protruding veins. Back fat like stacks of donuts. Red noses cratered by pores, black hair escaping from nostrils.” She is merciless like an ancient prophet. She also tells a really good story.

Alison Wonderland, Chief Editor and Adjunct Professor for Student Loans.