Hey Nostradamus!

Coupland, Douglas

Published by Harper Perennial, 2009
ISBN 10: 0007162510 / ISBN 13: 9780007162512
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Synopsis: The story of one family piecing itself back together after a tragic highschool shooting, Hey Nostradamus! is Douglas Coupland's most soulful, piercing and searching novel yet.Pregnant and secretly married, Cheryl Anway scribbles her last will and testament - and erie premonition - on a school binder shortly before a rampaging trio of misfit classmates gun her down in a high school cafeteria. Overrun with paranoia, teenage angst and religious zeal in the ensuing massacre's wake, this sleepy Vancouver neighbourhood declares its saints, brands its demons and finally moves on.But for a handful of people still reeling from that horrific day, life remains perpetually derailed. Four dramatically different characters tell their stories in their own words: Cheryl, who calmly narrates her own death; Jason, the boy no one knew was her husband, still marooned ten years later by his loss; Heather, the woman trying to love the shattered Jason; and Jason's father Reg, a cruelly religious man no one suspects is still worth loving. Each wrestles with God, self-defeat and a crippling inability to hold on to those they love.Coupland's most surprising and soulful novel yet, rich with his trademark cultural acuity and dark humour, Hey Nostradamus! ties themes of alienation, violence and misguided faith into a fateful and unforgettable knot from which four people must untangle their lives.

Review: Considering some of his past subjects--slackers, dot-commers, Hollywood producers--a Columbine-like high school massacre seems like unusual territory for the usually glib Douglas Coupland. Anyone who has read Generation X or Miss Wyoming knows that dryly hip humor, not tragedy, is the Vancouver author's strong suit. But give Coupland credit for twisting his material in strange, unexpected shapes. Coupland begins his seventh novel by transposing the Columbine incident to North Vancouver circa 1988. Narrated by one of the murdered victims, the first part of Hey Nostradamus! is affecting and emotional enough to almost make you forget you're reading a book by the same writer who so accurately characterized a generation in his first book, yet was unable to delineate a convincing character. As Cheryl Anway tells her story, the facts of the Delbrook Senior Secondary student's life--particularly her secret marriage to classmate Jason--provide a very human dimension to the bloody denouement that will change hundreds of lives forever. Rather than moving on to explore the conditions that led to the killings, though, Coupland shifts focus to nearly a dozen years after the event: first to Jason, still shattered by the death of his teenage bride, then to Jason's new girlfriend Heather, and finally to Reg, Jason's narrow-minded, religious father.

Hey Nostradamus! is a very odd book. It's among Coupland's most serious efforts, yet his intent is not entirely clear. Certainly there is no attempt at psychological insight into the killers' motives, and the most developed relationships--those between Jason and Cheryl, and Jason and Reg--seem to have little to do with each other. Nevertheless, it is a Douglas Coupland book, which means imaginatively strange plot developments--as when a psychic, claiming messages from the beyond, tries to extort money from Heather--that compel the reader to see the story to its end. And clever turns of phrase, as usual, are never in short supply, but in Cheryl's section the fate we (and she) know awaits her gives them an added weight: "Math class was x's and y's and I felt trapped inside a repeating dream, staring at these two evil little letters who tormented me with their constant need to balance and be equal with each other," says the deceased narrator. "They should just get married and form a new letter together and put an end to all the nonsense. And then they should have kids." --Shawn Conner, Amazon.ca

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Title: Hey Nostradamus!
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Publication Date: 2009
Binding: Paperback
Book Condition: Used: Good

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