Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hey Nostradamus! - Douglas Coupland [June/06]

There is a book publishing company named Random House, you might have noticed me mentioning them in other posts lately. That is because, they are giving me books, I read them, and then I write about them on here! Hey Nostradamus! is the first book that I have receieved and read from them. They have a Canadian office, and publish a lot of the fine authors that I have written about in the past. Douglas Coupland is one of those authors.

From the back of the book:

Four people's lives are set adrift in the wake of a high school shooting - three can't escape the loneliness that plagues them in the decade that follows, while a fourth faces oblivion, wondering what happened to God. Bristling with the hallmark vivacity, humour and cultural acuity of Douglas Coupland's previous bestsellers, Hey Nostradamus! achieves new heights of poignancy and literary accomplishment for one of Canada's most internationally respected novelists.

I have to say it, Coupland is just an amazing author. I don't know what it is about him, but while I have liked some of his novels better than others, there has never been one that I can say I didn't like at all. All Families are Psycotic was my first Coupland novel, and has always been my favourite, but Hey Nostradamus! is now tied for that place, and it might just be because it has been several years since I started reading Coupland and the other books are not as familiar.

Coupland's novels are never about happy things. This particular novel is no exception. It is about a school shooting, something that people are very aware of following the string of disasterous ones like the Columbine one in the US. If you don't like to read things like this, then I might suggest that Coupland is not for you. It is safe to say that Coupland is not for most people because his writing style is so risque.

The novel begins in 1988 with Cheryl. She thinks that life is good and that she finally has the happiness that she has been searching for, but then one lunch time spent in the cafeteria brings her whole world crashing down around her. The other three narrators face the reprecussions of what happened in that cafeteria that day and what would eventually happen to Cheryl. Jason, who she is secretly married to would feel it first because he was there that day, he became a hero because of the darkness of the day, but he never recovers from the horror that surrounds him when three misfit kids decide to bring justice to the students that pretended they didn't exist. Now they know their names.

Jason is the second narrator. It is 1999, and he still is not comfortable in his own skin. It has been 11 years and he still can not come to terms with what happened. His life was thrown upside down that day and it has never fully settled. This part of the novel is told as he is writing a short autobiography for his two nephews, something for them to appreciate when they get older and in the off chance he dies young. It recounts the shootings from his point of view, but it also speaks to what it was like afterwards. How family treated him and how he was viewed by the public. There are even letters from Cheryl's family included that give a picture of what life was like for them and how they feel about Jason.

The third person that narrates the novel is Jason's girlfriend, Heather, who shows up after Jason has finished his part. The year is 2002, for whatever reason Jason has gone to the store for some cigarettes and never came back, so she is trying to come to terms with his disappearance. She was not a witness to the shootings, she came along afterwards, but she is still feeling the shock wave of the events. She knows that she lives in the shadow of Cheryl and she knows the unhappiness that Jason feels. She comes to terms with a lot in her account, admitting day by day the struggle that life has become for her. But, she finds her happiness in a message from the dead.

The last narrator is Reg, Jason's father. We have learned about him slowly in all three sections, everyone has a different perspective on the man. By the time he is writing this, 2003, he has changed. Both of his sons are gone, Jason's brother died in a car crash, and his wife had left him years before, and so he is very alone in the world. Someone was brave enough to tell him that how he views himself, as a religious saint, is not how others percieve him and it has brought on changes. He writes his part as a letter to Jason, hoping that Jason is still out there somewhere and will see it and forgive him.

I think that Coupland has made his mark with this novel.


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