Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland

Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Hardcover (available in trade), 244 pages, 2003

Rating: 8/10

Reason for Reading: It’s Coupland.

Synopsis: A high school shooting in the 1980s leaves students dead, including Cheryl, who starts off telling the story. From there, the devastating effects are explored over the next fifteen years by three characters, starting with Jason, who had secretly married Cheryl shortly before she died.

Why you should read this book: Coupland being Coupland, the story twists and turns in completely unexpected ways, from clashing religious views to subsequent dealings of life and death. A compelling look at the hope, hate and distrust that keep rolling long after the news crews have shut off their cameras. The writing feels honest without being overly-sentimental.

Why you should avoid this book: There’s a sharp divide in the mind about fictionalizing events obviously based on the Columbine shootings. On one hand, it’s completely sickening to read about all the violence knowing real teenagers died in this manner; but on the other hand, how do you explain a character with such a crushed spirit without showing what’s been on their mind for the past fifteen years? Coupland also has a frustrating tendency to make bizarre plot leaps to tie up all the ends of a story.

Opening paragraph:

I believe that what separates humanity from everything else in this world – spaghetti, binder paper, deep-sea creatures, edelweiss and Mount McKinley – is that humanity alone has the capacity at any given moment to commit all possible sins. Even those of us who try to live a good and true life remain as far away from grace as the Hillside Strangler or any demon who ever tried to poison the village well. What happened that morning only confirms this.

Fabulous quotes:

And I did have questions and uneasy moments after my conversion. I wondered why it is that going to heaven is the only goal of religion, because it’s such a selfish thing. The Out to Lunch Bunch talked about going to heaven in the same breath as they discussed hair color. Leading a holy life inside a burgundy-colored VW Cabrio seems like a spiritual contradiction. Jason once joked that if you read Revelations closely, you could see where it says that Dee Carswell counting the calories in a packet of Italian dressing is a sign of imminent apocalypse. Whenever I felt doubts I overcompensated by trying to witness to whoever was nearby, usually my family. And when they even remotely sensed religion coming up, they either nodded politely or they bolted. I can’t imagine what they said about me when I wasn’t there. In any event, I think in the end it’s maybe best to keep your doubts private. Saying them aloud cheapens them – makes them a bunch of words just like everyone else’s bunch of words.

I pulled over to watch him pray. This was about as interested as I’d been in praying since 1988. I could barely see my father’s white Taurus parked back from the highway, on a street in the adjoining suburb, beside a small stand of Scotch broom. The absence of any other car on the highway made his presence seem like that of a soul in pilgrimage. That poor dumb bastard. He’d scared or insulted away or betrayed all the people who otherwise ought to have been in his life. He’s a lonely, bitter, prideful crank, and I really have to laugh when I consider the irony that I’ve become, of course, the exact same thing. Memo to Mother Nature: Thanks.

Also recommended: Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold; Lost Girls by Andrew Pyper; God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian by Kurt Vonnegut.

Also by this author: The Gum Thief; JPod; Terry: Terry Fox and His Marathon of Hope; Eleanor Rigby; Generation X; Shampoo Planet; Life After God; Microserfs; Girlfriend in a Coma; Miss Wyoming; All Families Are Psychotic; Polaroids from the Dead; City of Glass, Souvenir of Canada, Souvenir of Canada 2; God Hates Japan; School Spirit.

Author’s website: coupland.com

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007

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