ANTHEM OF A RELUCTANT PROPHET by Joanne Proulx (Viking Canada), 336 pages, $28 paper. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Set in shit town Stokum, Michigan, Anthem Of A Reluctant Prophet is the story of sarcastic, hormonal Luke Hunter, 17, who is, well, a reluctant prophet.
His good friend dies early on (Luke knows all the details before it happens), which sets the scene - and everything falls off from there on. In fact, this first-chapter death is arguably the climax of the novel.
Luke's prophecy isn't hugely sensationalized, it's definitely set in real life and doesn't venture far into the paranormal (or the religious, for that matter), but it's not really explained or resolved either. (Don't worry, I won't ruin the end - save mentioning that there isn't one.)
I believe in the "write what you know" rule unless you're going to write what you don't know superbly. Author Joanne Proulx doesn't pull off a teen male point of view, and her attempt reads like a teenager trying too hard.
Sometimes, the mistaken or inconsistent music references and details come across as intentional, indicative of the small-town setting. At other times I'm not convinced. Who was excited about the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 2003? Maybe someone living in Stokum, but it's unclear if that's what the author is getting at here.
And the fact that a woman wrote this book just keeps seeping through. What teenage boy in a backwards baseball cap gets excited about female vocals in a White Stripes song?
Inadvertently, though, that female sensibility works for me. Halfway through, the love story between Luke and his dead friend's widowed Girl Perfection (Faith) overshadows the whole I-foresee-dead-people thread, and is really quite strong.
Ms. Proulx, if you write a sequel, can you make it Faith's story, please?
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