Hey Nostradamus! An unexpected book review


My local library copy. Supoort your local library, folks!

This blog isn’t a book review site, and I can’t even claim that this is a brand new or yet-to-be-released title. I’m not even using the author’s name to drag in unwary Googlers. (Heh heh heh…googlers!)

No, I’m writing this review for what I think are the purest reasons – I just read this book myself and I really, really, liked it.

In the pre-internet days I would have just banged on about it to friends and work colleagues for a week or two until they told me to shut up or my goldfish brain found a new best thing to love. But now…Now I get to spread the love around the whole worldwide internetty web thing. Lucky you!

WARNING: This is NOT a cheerful book. This in itself is an odd thing, because I usually hate gloomy books. Today’s secret: I believe downbeat endings are a terrible idea, and if I think a book is heading that way, I’ll flip to the end and see if the main character is still alive on the last page. If not, I ditch the book.

Fortunately, this doesn’t have a downbeat ending. Sort of.

“Hey Nostradamus” opens with a High School massacre. A scene we’re all too familiar with, the outsider losers on the rampage with guns and bombs. But don’t be put off. This is not a gratuitous scene, not an opportunity to revel in the bloodshed and horror. The themes of this book are many, but they revolve around life, God, purpose, forgiveness and change. Yeah, that’s a little vague, but there’s so much in this story that I feel it’s unfair to try and pin it down too closely.

The approach is novel. Each section of the book is narrated by one of the characters. The first segment is Cheryl, a student at the High School who is the last to be killed on that terrible day. That’s a not a spoiler, folks, Cheryl lets you know what’s coming quite early on. She’s the only one speaking from the position of omniscient author – she’s dead, after all. The others that follow are all writing down their stories for others to read, deliberately chronicling or confessing in a way that makes the events they relate or the ideas they pass on much more personal.

The second section is related by Jason, who was Cheryl’s boyfriend. He survived the massacre, playing a significant role in it, but suffered a great deal as a consequence. His story is about how that day still resonates years later, how his struggle to get though life is complicated by those around him as much as the ghosts of yesterday.

The third section belongs to Heather, who befriends Jason after the events he relates in his segment. I won’t say much about her section, because it would spoil the story. The final section is Jason’s father, writing a letter to his son after years of not communicating. This section was fascinating, as Jason’s father was demonised throughout the early half of the book, then appeared to be making some redemptive moves late in life.

This book succeeds in the aim of every novellist: I have thought about it many times since I finished it, and someday in the not too distant future, I will pick it up again. I thoroughly recommend it.

Which books have you read that were so good you had to tell someone?

7 responses to “Hey Nostradamus! An unexpected book review

  1. Great post. I have to say, though, that Nostradamus totally expected this book review.

    As far as books that I like telling people about, The Sound and the Fury comes to mind right away, especially in response to this post because it’s also written in four voices, one of which is omniscient. I also tend to talk a lot about Flannery O’Connor.

    Right now I’m reading One Hundred Years of Solitude and really like it so far. The first chapter itself is an amazing model for writers.

    • I can’t believe it took me a day to realise what you’d written in that second sentence (mental headslap!).
      I have to say, there are days when a hundred years of solitude doesn’t sound like enough….

  2. Well done, sir. Long live the printed page and local libraries!

  3. I read the way you do. If it looks like a story is going to take its characters through the pits of life, I check the ending and put the book down if I don’t think it’s worth the downer. I think life’s hard enough; you don’t have to go out of your way to make it harder. There’s been some books I’ve finished anyway because they’re that good, Night and All Quiet on the Western Front being a couple. Since you’re recommending I’ll give this book a try. Thanks.

  4. Jackie Paulson 1966

    The themes of this book are many, but they revolve around life, God, purpose, forgiveness and change. Yeah, that’s a little vague, but there’s so much in this story that I feel it’s unfair to try and pin it down too closely. After reading that I want to read the book. I also like that you didn’t “Tell All ” about the book. I love to read and this book seems like a page turner. Thanks.

  5. Pingback: Hey, Nostradamus! | To Read

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