Finished: May 13, 2008
First Published: April 2008
Genre: literary fiction
Reason for Reading: received this ARC.
Alone in the doctor's office, Sweeney's eyes lingered on the final panel and, once again, he found himself feeling something close to sympathy for the cartoon strongman, exiled and adrift, the world town down in a random instant and supplanted with a precarious replacement.
Comments: This is a very strange story and a hard one to summarize. There are many different threads to the story but on the surface there are two main plots. Sweeney has moved to a small town and placed his comatose son in the care of the specialized clinic. He has taken the job as the night shift pharmacist and lives in an apartment in the basement. Very quickly he realizes that there is something going on at the clinic and on his very first day in town he has an unpleasant run-in with the local biker gang, the Abominations.
Also, running through the book is a story within a story which takes the form of a fantastical comic book plot. The story of a troupe of misfit circus freaks who travel across their Old World landscape seeking a home. They follow the chicken boy who goes into trances that reveal the way they should travel. Ultimately each of these plots, Sweeney and his son, the clinic, the mad doctor, the biker gang and the circus freaks will meet in an explosive ending. This is an outlandish story but underneath the layers the themes of faith and forgiveness are simple enough.
I was really taken with this book. The first few pages had me hooked and I was drawn into the strange and surreal world. The whole book, even the "real world" portions had a comic-book feel to it and reality became suspended. There are a lot of characters, a lot of plots and downright weirdness that will make this book not for everyone and probably even not for most people. While the book isn't overly violent, (though there are a few parts) I would compare this to a stylized Quentin Tarantino movie or the dark, weirdness of a Tim Burton movie. If that type of plot appeals to you, then this book will be sure to satisfy.